Boarding at St. Catherine’s is in age-specific cohorts in four houses: Bronte (age 11-13; Symes (aged 13/14); Keller (age 14-16) and Sixth Form - The 6 (age 16-18).
The School Houses – all six of them – to which all our students belong – day girls and boarders - create a girl’s sense of belonging to the whole school from age 11 to 18. By contrast, the Boarding houses are their home addresses and where they live. However, as a boarder, you do then have the benefit of not one, but two housemistresses with specific roles, but who work together to educate and support your daughter.
Your School Housemistress and her team of form tutors look after your academic progress and welfare, and also run a raft of inter-house competitions throughout the year, held during two House Lunches a week and on some special days which are off curriculum at the ends of terms. Girls’ passion for their houses is absolute.
Your Boarding Housemistress will be a teacher who has a particular pastoral specialism with her given age group of boarders and is the touch point for boarders’ parents. A teacher, but also a parental figure – with all that means about nurture, encouragement, and the occasional nudge into getting behaviour and organisation right – the BHM – as we call them – is going to help your daughter to become a great citizen of her boarding house, to organise her life and gain independence, complete all her studies and prep. properly, and encourage her in all her activities.
From a carefully structured programme in Bronte or Symes as you join boarding at 11+ or 13+ to the greater freedom to study in your room in Keller for GCSE, to the trust and freedom of the Sixth Form where the atmosphere is more akin to that of a university Hall of Residence, the four houses help the girls to develop to the point where they are ready to take university life and study in their stride. It is an exciting journey of 7, 5 or 2 years, with girls joining us along the way. However, the longer you are here, the more you can gain from the St. Catherine’s experience and while we welcome new girls at each of these stages, we warmly advocate for years 7 and 9 as the best way to get the best from this School.
Bronte: An ideal introduction to boarding
Bronte provides an especially warm and comfortable environment for our U3 (Year 7) and L4 (Year 8) boarders. Situated on the first floor of the Main School building, Bronte has light and spacious dormitories for between two and five girls, which are all themed in their decoration: mountains, woodland, ocean, garden, rainforest, desert, the savanna and outer space! The girls change dormitories every half-term to extend their friendship groups and experience the different room themes.
Within the boarding house, there is a café-style kitchen for snacking and chatting over delicious home-made cakes or fresh fruit at tea time, and a further large comfortable common room with sofas where the girls can watch TV or a DVD, chat, play games, read or just chill out. There is even a table tennis table, air hockey and table football, and a piano for practice or occasional sing-alongs! Prep. time after supper is supervised by a member of the resident staff who is also a teacher. It takes place on a daily basis in one of the school’s nearby classrooms, ensuring that the boarding house remains a place of relaxation and social fun!
Bronte is the perfect springboard for every girl's journey through St Catherine's. It offers a structured and highly supportive introduction to living away from home, which encourages the girls to explore their own talents and capabilities through a carefully planned programme of evening and weekend activities. Living so closely with each other teaches the girls self-reliance, mutual respect and compromise, leading to deep friendships that can last a lifetime.
Meet the Bronte Housemistress: Mrs Hobourn
Hello! Bonjour! Sawadee-ka! Ki-ora!
Mrs. Hobourn looks after St. Catherine's youngest boarders in U3 and L4. During term time, she lives in a flat within the boarding house, but her home is in Lyon, France. This makes her a committed Francophile, always happy to speak French with the girls and her colleagues too! Mrs. Hobourn lives with her younger daughter Annabelle, a St. Catherine's pupil, and Lavender, the bilingual boarding bunny! She also has an older daughter, Amy, who is a French, Spanish and Japanese teacher in a Cambridgeshire State School.
Mrs. Hobourn likes to travel, to learn about the cultures of the places she visits with her daughters, and they all enjoy making music! Mrs. Hobourn sees herself as very fortunate to have lived in four different countries. She therefore understands the challenges of living away from home and the benefits: increasing cultural awareness and making new friends. When at home, Mrs. Hobourn keeps herself busy with reading, writing and a variety of handicrafts. She is usually willing to have a go at creating just about anything!
Professionally, Mrs. Hobourn studied Education at Whitelands College, which is now part of Roehampton. She has taught in State and Private schools in the UK, France and Thailand and teaches both Music and French in the Prep. School here at St. Catherine's. She is therefore a familiar face for the Prep. School girls when they cross the road and join the boarding community, and a welcoming smile for the new-comers too!
Symes: A discrete community for our Upper 4 girls
For this significant year of adolescent transition, we have Symes Boarding House. In our experience, Year 9 is often the year of greatest physical and emotional development for our girls, when the challenges of adolescence combine with an intensifying academic curriculum and important GCSE option decisions.
Symes Boarding House is situated a short distance away from the main school block and offers the Year 9 girls the opportunity to blossom in their own unique environment. The House has quick and easy access to the adjoining sports facilities and music block, and the adjacent open space of the school playing fields whilst still being within easy walking distance of the main teaching blocks. The resident staff in Symes aim to inspire the girls to be the best they can be and not to fear the challenges they may face along their educational journey. Inspirational quotations and words of wisdom hang on the walls to help maintain the balance of life’s pressures.
Symes has its own spacious common room, offering the girls an in-house library, TV, piano and most importantly lots of sofas to relax on. The school wifi is fully accessible from the boarding house so girls can watch their individual favourite programmes on their I-pads, laptops or phones during their relaxation time. The house kitchen is fully equipped with the necessary equipment to make a range of snacks, from a toaster and rice cooker to a popcorn machine!
Each girl has an allocated work station within the house and Prep is undertaken at a set time each evening. During this time girls have access to and support from various subject specialist resident staff who are on duty during Prep. Our aim at this stage is to develop the girls' independence whilst still maintaining a supportive framework around each girl.
The girls work together to create a vibrant, positive and friendly community which each year reflects them as individuals. Their dormitories are light and airy and come to life at the beginning of each term with their displays of posters and lots of beautiful family pictures.
Meet the Symes Housemistress: Mrs Harkness
Mrs Harkness lives in the flat located on the ground floor of the house during term time. This is an ideal location as the girls can easily stop by if they have questions or just fancy a chat. During holiday time Mrs Harkness returns to her own family home in Fareham, Hampshire, living with her husband, Dave and two adult step children, Josh and Elliot.
She holds a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Chichester, specialising in PE and Dance and during the school day works within the PE and Life Matters Departments of the Senior School. She is also the choreographer of any school musicals, a particular enthusiasm of hers.
Mrs Harkness shares her flat with her cocker spaniel 'Reg' who just loves to be petted by any girls or visitors who like dogs.
In her free time she enjoys trips to various theatres to watch plays, musicals and dance works. She is a keen recreational runner and has undertaken the Great South Run on a number of occasions. During holiday time she enjoys skiing and loves spending time in the mountains. Mrs Harkness is looking forward to organising and leading another St Cat’s Ski Tour during the Easter Holidays for girls in Year 8 and 9.
Keller: The GCSE Years: work hard, play hard
Keller is home to the Fifth Form girls and occupies the original boarding site in the main school building of St Catherine’s.
Located on the second floor, the house accommodates boarders in mixed-sized study bedrooms of up to four. Each dorm is different but they are all bright and airy and rooms and corridors enjoy the best views in School, out over the grounds and up to Chinthurst Hill and beyond. The Common Room has a kitchen with a breakfast bar where the girls enjoy socialising and where Mrs Cook can be found every other Friday evening, rustling up supper for Keller girls, resident staff and special guests. There is also a piano and a large screen television with Freeview, Apple TV and a Keller Netflix Account with access to age appropriate films. Girls really enjoy the atmosphere in this boarding house.
Keller girls know how to work hard and still have fun. They are now mature enough to do their prep. in their own dorms with less supervision and each has a good size desk and shelves for books/resources. This is an excellent opportunity for them to develop their time-management skills and to be responsible for their own learning, whilst supervised by the staff team and helped to find that self-direction and self-discipline. Mrs Cook, Keller's Housemistress, and the tutor team will provide support where necessary, but the girls are increasingly independent which is as it should be.
The girls can relax in the common room during their down time before or after prep. Aerobics, yoga club and the fitness suite are favourite activities in leisure time, offering the chance to burn off any energy after prep. time. Watching TV and baking are also popular activities for relaxing. Evening roll call is held in the common room, giving a daily opportunity for the Keller community to meet.
Weekends in Keller offer a more relaxed atmosphere. As well as the wide variety of exciting trips provided for all boarders at St Catherine's, Fifth Formers also enjoy the privilege of unsupervised visits to Guildford in groups, for shopping or the cinema, with parental permission. Having extended access to the school facilities also allows the girls to catch up with any academic work, practise their instruments or relax after fixtures.
Meet the Keller Housemistress: Mrs Cook
Mrs Cook lives at the top of the boarding house in the heart of Keller, with her daughter Maddie, and with Floppy the rabbit. Her other daughter, Antonia, is a boarder in Sixth Form. Floppy makes frequent visits to the corridors of Keller where he enjoys bouncing and of course receiving attention from the girls.
Mrs Cook graduated from the University of Southampton with a BA (Hons) degree in History before pursuing a PGCE at the University of Bath. She followed her love of History by becoming a history teacher. She has had a varied career working across Independent and Inner-City Schools as a classroom practitioner and Head of Department as well as delivering training to teachers and working within Senior Management. Most recently, she was Head of History in an independent girls’ school in Hampshire. It was here that she completed a Masters of Education degree with the University of Buckingham. The latter, fired up a passion for pastoral care which led to her position as Boarding Housemistress.
Holding dual nationality, British / French, Mrs Cook is a fluent French speaker who regularly returns to France. In her free time, she also enjoys cycling, skiing, reading, walking and travelling abroad. She also loves spending time with her extended family.
The Sixth Form: The A Level Years and Looking forward
Boarding in the Sixth Form is designed to give the girls high levels of personal responsibility and independence in preparation for life beyond school. Girls in Sixth Form boarding enjoy an environment that, whilst still being both supportive and caring, encourages them to develop into independent young women, ready to embrace the next step of their lives when most girls go on to university or specialist art, music and drama schools. All Sixth Formers, boarders and day girls, are allowed to wear their own clothes in school, although there is a sixth form dress code that they all have to follow. This allows for comfort and also a chance to express individuality and character.
A large proportion of the Sixth Form choose to board either as weekly boarders or full boarders. In The 6 you'll enjoy a large open plan Common Room with a fully equipped kitchen, sofas and comfy chairs where you can relax and recharge during the School day. In the Common Room day girls and boarders come together. For weekday evenings and at the weekends on each floor of The 6 is a cosy ‘snug’ with a kitchen so you can relax, watch films on Netflix and enjoy a snack. The 6 has modern well-lit bathrooms with private shower cubicles and private baths. You’ll also have your own laundry.
In The 6 girls will share in one of 44 brand new twin bed rooms. Each room is fully furnished and each girl will have her own spacious wardrobe, under bed storage, shelving, a noticeboard, study desk and lamp. Each bedroom has floor to ceiling windows for maximum natural light. Sharing rooms allows the girls to make close friends, to look out for one another, and to learn to respect each other’s space and tolerate any foibles. New girls to the school will share initially with a girl who already knows St Catherine’s. For the other two terms, girls decide themselves with whom they would like to share. The 6 bedrooms are named after influential women across history. Chosen by girls, alumna and staff the list includes global representatives from the fields of science, the arts, civil rights, philanthropy and more. 9 alumnae such as actor Juliet Stevenson, aeronautics Professor Beverley McKeon Reynolds, yachtswoman Nikki Henderson, war correspondent Anne Garrels and founder of Afghan Connection, Dr Sarah Fane are acknowledged for their contribution. We hope that generations of girls will be enthused and energised by the stories of the women for whom their rooms are named. Click here to see all the inspirational women we have chosen to celebrate.
There are many opportunities to take part in a wide variety of weekend activities such as theatre trips, cinema, independent study days in London and visits to restaurants; there is always something to do in Sixth Form boarding! Girls also have much more freedom in the Sixth form and are allowed to go into Guildford (during the week) and London (at the weekends) with parental permission. Full boarders may also choose to stay elsewhere for weekends and this can be arranged through the Housemistress.
Meet the Sixth Form Housemistress: Mrs Alexander
Mrs Alexander is married to Jeff, who works in insurance. They have 2 children, Freddie and Archie. Both boys enjoy living in their school home and great big ‘park’ – and you can often see them cycling, skating or generally charging around! The family dog is a miniature shnauzer called Kaiser and he is gorgeous and very active! He can regularly be seen trotting off for runs and walks. Girls are also encouraged and welcome to walk Kaiser or simply come and have cuddles with him to help de-stress and relax!
Mrs Alexander has a Bachelor of Education with specialism in Physical Education and was previously the Director of Sport for 15 years here at St Catherine’s before becoming Head of Sixth Form Boarding. She knows the school extremely well. She, herself, was a boarder at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, and thoroughly enjoyed boarding life. She says that when she was at school as a pupil she was a ‘loveable rogue’, and she knows much about all aspects of boarding!
As well as being the boarding Housemistress of the Sixth Form house, Mrs Alexander teaches A Level PE, continues to coach some lacrosse with the U14 and U15 and senior teams. She is also one of our school Designated Safeguarding Leads.
Mrs Alexander continues to remain fit and active, playing lacrosse and netball regularly and, of course, you can often see her pounding the streets of Bramley, on the school playing fields or making use of the wonderful Anniversary Halls facilities. She also enjoys historical documentaries and dramas and reading fiction.