Our Boarding Houses
There are four Boarding Houses and these are the home 'address' and where they live, and are age-specific Houses organised by Year Groups. Girls are also a member of a School House, of which there are six, each including day girls and boarders. The School Houses create a girl’s sense of belonging to the whole school from age 11 to 18. As a boarders, the girls have the benefit of two Housemistresses with specific roles, but who work together to educate and support your daughter.
The 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 joining points to get the best from this School.
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 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 a dedicated Prep room within the Bronte Boarding House, ensuring that the bedrooms remains a place of relaxation and social fun!
Boarding Beginnings - 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. Do click the image above to read more about Boarding Beginnings and read parents and girls perspectives on their boarding journey.
Meet the Bronte Housemistress: Mrs Harrison
Mrs Harrison took on the role of Head of Bronte Boarding House in September 2021. She was educated and spent the lion’s share of her professional career in South Africa. She has a Masters degree from the University of Stellenbosch and teaches English. Before immigrating to the UK, Mrs Harrison was Headmistress of St Teresa’s School and Deputy Headmistress (Pastoral) at Roedean(SA). She specialises in girls’ education, thinking skills and the promotion of STE(A)M in schools from Pre-school to A level. Mrs Harrison comes to St Catherine’s from Charterhouse where she was part of the girls’ boarding house team and taught English.
Mrs Harrison has two married daughters both of whom live in Godalming, but work in London. Her happiest moments are spent with family, travelling, going to the theatre or cinema. Mrs Harrison enjoys walking, adores animals, but is not averse to snuggling on the couch with her cat and a good book.
Mrs Harrison is passionate about girls’ education and believes that they thrive within a safe and focused environment. She loves working with teenagers and finds their energy, enthusiasm and hope for the future inspirational. St Catherine’s epitomises the philosophy of Christian values, trust, affirmation, balance, excellence and care and is the ideal place in which she should work. Mrs Harrison will do everything in her power to ensure that the Bronte girls have a happy, healthy and successful time at the school.
7:15am Wakey! Wakey! Rise and shine!
7:30am Breakfast in the dining hall
8:00am Back to Bronte to prepare for school • Clean Teeth • Make your bed • Tidy your Dorm Area • Hand in any laundry • Double check school bag and Prep
8:10am Dorm Checks - when clean and tidy you are ready for school! Electronic devices returned.
8:20am Head to tutor rooms and be there for 8.25am
8.25 - 4.10pm Registration and your School day begins
4:10pm Back to Bronte for snacks
4:30 – 5:30pm Extra-Curricular activities or music practice. Remember to ‘sign out’ with the on duty staff member i
5:30 – 6:30pm Golden Time! Your time! Common room time! Relax, chat, play games, socialise, pick up your laundry, do your music practice …
6:30pm Supper time (Chapel on Wednesdays, followed by supper)
7:00 – 8:30pm Prep time in the Bronte Prep Room, St. Margaret
8:30 – 8:50pm Shower, brush teeth, into PJs, pack school bag for next day.
8:50pm Roll Call – all electronic devices to be handed in.
9:00pm Bedtime – reading with bedside lights
9:10pm Lights out and quiet! Time to sleep!
Bronte provides an especially warm and comfortable environment for our U3 (Year 7) girls. Situated on the first floor of the main School, Bronte has light and spacious dormitories for between two and four girls. There is a café-style kitchen for relaxing with a drink and snacks. Fresh fruit is always available. Adjacent is a games room with a table tennis and football table and also a comfortable Common Room with sofas where the girls can watch TV or a DVD, chat, read or just relax. Girls enjoy a warm and secure environment in these first two years at St Catherine's.
The girls have an internal laundry service provided for their School uniform, their home clothes and their duvet covers and sheets.
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.
The girls work together to create a vibrant, positive and friendly community which each year reflects them as individuals.
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. Mrs Harkness combines the role of Symes Boarding Housemistress with her role on the Senior Leadership Team as Senior Boarding Housemistress and has oversight of the whole boarding community.
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 school musicals, a particular enthusiasm of hers.
Mrs Harkness shares her flat with her husband and their 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 an the Easter Holiday for girls in Year 8 and 9 once Covid restrictions are over.
7.00am Wake up
7.30am Leave house for breakfast in main school – after breakfast you may return to Symes
8.15am Leave Symes for your School day
8.25-4.10pm School day P
4.10pm Return to Symes - snacks!
4.30pm Extra-curricular clubs and activities
5.30pm Relaxation time/music practice
6.30pm Supper (except on Wednesdays when we go to Chapel, so supper is a little later)
7.00pm Evening Prep Time – takes place in Symes study room
8.30pm Relaxation time
9.00pm Evening roll call and time to hand in your electronic devices, followed by final preparations for bed
9.20pm Quiet reading time, all main lights turned off, bedside lights on
9.45pm ‘Little’ lights turned off and time to sleep
For this significant year of transition we reserve Symes House, a modern and spacious building, exclusively for Upper 4. Symes House is situated a short walk from the main school which provides the feeling of 'going home' at the end of the day.
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!
There is a separate building next door where girls complete their Prep to provide them with a separate work and relaxation spaces. Each girl has an allocated work station 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 dormitories in Symes 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.
Keller is home to the Fifth Form girls and occupies the top of our historic 1885 main school building at St Catherine’s. 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 sized 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 important self-direction and self-discipline. Mrs Evans, Keller's Housemistress, and the tutor team will provide support where necessary, but the girls are increasingly independent which is as it should be.
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 Evans
Mrs Evans lives at the top of the boarding house in the heart of Keller, with her daughter Elsie. She graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc (Hons) degree in Geology before pursuing a Masters in Applied Geophysics at the University of Birmingham. Mrs Evans worked in the City of London as a Data Analyst for a while before deciding to pursue a career in education, and completed her PGCSE at the Institute of Education, specialising in Physics. She began her teaching career in Inner-City schools as a classroom practitioner and Science Community Co-ordinator. Mrs Evans quickly realised her passion was for the pastoral element of education and has since worked as a Head of Year and most recently held a Senior management position in a nearby Independent school as Head of Key Stage Three, looking after the girls and ensuring they were well behaved, achieving but most importantly happy at school and thriving.
Mrs Evans is a keen runner and has completed marathons and ultra-events in the past. She loves to read and her bookshelves are bulging under the weight of all the books she likes to keep and cherish.
7:30am Wake up!
8:15am Get ready for School
8:25am Leave the boarding house for Registration
8.25-4.10pm Registration, your School day begins
4:10pm Return to your home - Keller. If you invite a day-girl friend please remember to sign her in!
4:30 – 6:40pm Free time/extra-curricular activities
6:40pm Supper (On Wednesdays, Chapel is at 6.40pm followed by a later supper at 7pm, Prep at 7.20pm)
7:00 – 8:30pm Prep in Library or in your own dorm.
9:20 - 9.30pm Roll call in St Ursula (Keller Common Room), hand in all electronic devices.
9:45pm 'Little lights' for reading in bed
10:00pm Lower 5 lights out.
10:15pm Upper 5 lights out.
Located on the second floor, the house accommodates boarders in mixed-sized study bedrooms for between two and four girls. 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. Keller girls enjoy the atmosphere in Keller; many of the rooms have eaves-style ceilings, giving them a cosy home-from-home environment.
The Common Room has a kitchen with a breakfast bar where the girls enjoy socialising. 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. Watching TV and baking are popular activities for relaxing. Evening roll call is held in the Common Room, giving a daily opportunity for the Keller community to meet.
Aerobics, yoga club and the fitness suite are favourite activities in leisure time, offering the chance to burn off any energy after Prep time as is quiet music practice before relaxation and bedtime.
Review of Sixth Form Boarding
Boarding in 'The 6' - the Sixth Form boarding house - 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 the girls enjoy a large open plan Common Room with a fully equipped kitchen, sofas and comfy chairs where they 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 there is a cosy ‘snug’ with a kitchen so they can relax, watch films on Netflix and enjoy a snack. The 6 has modern well-lit bathrooms with private shower cubicles and private baths. Girls also have their own laundry.
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. They are trusted to keep their academic work on track and manage their activities at leisure time with supportive mentoring from the resident staff if needed.
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 degree 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's 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.
From 7:30am Breakfast in the dining room (All L6 and U6 are expected to attend.
8:20am Leave for School
10:00am Return for tea, toast and free fruit at break time
10.25am You may work in your study bedroom if you have a non-contact period or you can work in the Speech Hall Library, known as the SHLib!
8:25 – 4:10pm School timetable
4:10pm Snacks available in the Snugs
4:30 – 5:30pm Music practice, Sports Clubs, Drama Rehearsals, Sports practices
5.30 – 6.30pm Relaxation/boarders’ activities
6:50pm Supper (except Wednesdays when it is Boarders’ Chapel service at 6.40pm followed by supper at 7.00pm)
7.15 – 8.55pm Quiet time in The 6 or the Sixth Form Library for Prep or evening activity that may be weekly or occasional
e.g. Dialogue sixth form discussion group, or Open House with Mr and Mrs Alexander on Wednesdays
9.30pm Roll Call L6 - all girls must be back in the boarding house (except with special permission) by 9.30pm
9.45pm Roll Call U6 - all girls must be back in the boarding house (except with special permission) by 9.45pm
10.00 – 10.30pm House to be quiet, girls to be getting ready for bed and in their room. Final good night from the staff.
10.30pm All girls must be in their rooms for sleep!
In The 6
The 6 is our brand new Sixth Form building for day girls and boarders. Opened in February 2021, The 6 is a space of their own - only open to Sixth Formers. It was designed with them in mind. Inside there is a large open-plan common room and kitchen. It is fully equipped so girls can have a quick snack at break time from the toast, fruit and biscuits provided or at the weekend if a boarder, they can make their own meal. This social space has a huge central island - the hub of The 6 where girls can chat, discuss their studies and support each other. There are also comfortable sofas for relaxing and a large TV for films at the weekend and in the evenings.
In The 6 girls will share in one of 44 brand new twin bedrooms. 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. 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 accommodate any foibles. Each room is fully furnished and each girl will have her own spacious area with a noticeboard to personalise and her own study desk. Each bedroom has floor to ceiling windows for maximum natural light, a wardrobe with a lockable box, long hanging space, multiple shelves and large under-bed drawers to store shoes, sports equipment and more! A heated towel rail, long mirror and touch-lights for bedtime reading complete their rooms. The bathrooms are large, with private shower cubicles with power-showers and in-shower storage and hooks for towel/dressing gown hanging. As you'd expect there is plentiful hot water! In addition, there are separate private bathroom spaces if preferred.
The 6 bedrooms are named after influential women across history. Chosen by girls, alumnae and staff, the list includes global representatives from the fields of science, the arts, civil rights, philanthropy and more. 9 alumnae such as actress 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 also two 'snugs' one on each of the 1st and 2nd floors, for watching TV, listening to music and relaxing. These are for boarders only for use in the evenings and at weekends.