The girls are provided with:
- an intellectual challenge and a sense of achievement;
- ways to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in a manner which encourages their confidence and gives satisfaction and enjoyment;
- opportunities to develop their independent thinking and learning skills; skills to acquire knowledge, attitudes and learning which will facilitate further study;
- experiences enabling the formation of worthwhile and satisfying relationships based on respect for themselves and for others;
- the opportunity for enrichment and subject-based support through provision of a range of additional activities including field trips.
- an understanding that learning is a life long skill from which they can derive pleasure and enjoyment.
In addition, we believe that a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities offer girls the chance to develop further many of the skills which enhance their performance in this taught curriculum.
The Prep School curriculum comprises all formal academic subjects in addition to the broader opportunities of extension activities outside the classroom.
Throughout the Pre-Prep department the girls have specialist teachers for Computing, Music, Ballet and PE and there are plenty of opportunities during the year for the girls to celebrate their achievements in these subjects, such as school assemblies, Informal Concerts, Sports Day and the Christmas Nativity.
EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage)
Pre-Prep I (Reception) celebrates the start of school life at St Catherine's. Our main objective during this first year at school is for girls to feel secure, happy and settled. The girls follow the Foundation Stage Curriculum with activities to promote the Prime Areas of Learning which are:
- Communication and Language, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
- Specific areas include Literacy, Mathematics and Understanding the World, Expressive Arts and Design.
Art, Crafts, Music, Ballet and Drama are developed through the Expressive Arts and Design area of the curriculum.
There is a strong emphasis on having fun whilst learning which gives the girls confidence and encourages independence.
Pre-Prep II and III
These year groups continue to build on the solid foundations laid down in Pre-Prep I. The girls are encouraged during these years to become increasingly independent. The happy, secure and inspiring classrooms in Trinity Court provide the girls with the confidence to tackle new challenges and to develop their emerging skills in reading, writing and maths.
In Pre-Prep III girls start to learn the violin or cello in our string scheme. Ballet, Tap, Modern Dance and Chess are also offered as after school activities.
Girls are also introduced to a small selection of other optional clubs, including gardening and cookery.
Girls from Form 1 to Lower III remain in form-based teaching groups and, from Lower II, are in allocated teaching sets or small groups for Maths and some English lessons. Specialist teachers deliver Art, Computing, Design Technology, Drama, French, Music, Latin and PE. Girls in Lower III are also taught RS by our School Chaplain.
The Curriculum includes:
We are proud to be a De Bono Thinking School and promote independent thought and creative approaches to teaching and learning.
Our aim is for girls to leave the Prep School as confident, thinking young ladies ready to take advantage of all of the opportunities available in their next phase of education. Girls leave the Prep School to take up Senior School places at a number of excellent schools. We are very proud of their achievements.
2019 Leavers Destinations:
There are many opportunities for the girls to participate in the Creative Arts which are an important part of their education at this age and stage. Ballet is taught as part of the Pre-Prep curriculum and girls have an excellent musical education taught by specialist music teachers from PPI. Dance, drama and music are vibrant within the school and there are regular chances for the girls to perform both informally to their peers and within more formal setting in our outstanding Auditorium.
In Art, girls have the opportunity to work with a variety of different media in our inspirational Art room.
Girls develop their techniques with creativity, experimentation and different kinds of art and design. They are taught to create sketch books to record their observations and improve their art and design practice, including drawing, painting and sculpture using a range of materials. They are also introduced to artists and designers to underpin their thoughts and ideas for their own artwork.
We also run two weekly Art clubs where students have the chance to work in small groups and create a variety of projects in addition to the curriculum.
- Girls in PPI and PPII are taught Ballet as part of their curriculum. The curricular classes take place during the school day and aim to teach basic ballet technique and an awareness of the body and different ways of moving. Through imaginative, themed sessions, exploring fairy tales, classical ballet stories and links to school topics the dance classes will help the girls to harness skills in co-ordination, build their confidence and develop a greater understanding of working with others.
- For students in PPIII upwards ballet, Modern, Tap and Jazz dance classes are offered as an extra curricular activity taking place after school.
Drama is taught both as a discrete subject and as an important part of the English curriculum. As well as being great fun, taking part in drama develops the girls’ confidence, imagination and physical co-ordination, as well as their speaking and listening skills.
Girls have frequent opportunities to speak in front of an audience including assemblies, Harvest and Christmas celebrations and presentations to a group or class. LAMDA classes are offered to the older girls as an extra-curricular activity. Our two major public performances, the Pre-Prep Nativity and the end of LIII musical are always a delight and eagerly awaited by the school community and beyond.
The girls exude confidence, demonstrate great teamwork and perform with a maturity way beyond their years to create the most outstanding productions. We are very fortunate to be able to stage these events in the new, purpose built Anniversary Hall Theatre
Here at St Catherine’s, all girls are encouraged to foster a life-long passion for music, and it is taught as a specialist subject to each class from their very first week to their last. Curriculum lessons involve singing, playing instruments, listening and composing, using a wide variety of resources in our bright and engaging music room. Students can lie back whilst listening to music and look at the vibrant orchestra painted on the ceiling, or they can sit on our rainbow-hued wobble stools. Lessons are interactive, using lots of technology to increase the discourse between pupil and teacher, however we still teach very traditional skills such as the systematic Kodaly techniques for improving pitching and aural skills.
We have four years of instrumental tuition built into the curriculum from Pre-Prep III to Upper II. This is to help pupils find an instrument that they feel passionate and informed about. In Pre-Prep III girls learn a stringed instrument, Form I the recorder (whilst trying out all other woodwind and brass instruments) and Lower II and Upper II girls learn the ukulele.
Instrumentalists have many extra-curricular ensembles to join, including Piano Trios, String Quartets, Jazz Band, Wind Band, String Orchestra, Choirs, Musicianship Clubs and Music Technology clubs.
Performances are available throughout the year in many different settings. Pupils can perform against the stunning backdrop of our Prep School Organ, which takes pride of place in our School Hall, or on our beautiful donated Kawai grand piano which also resides there. We regular perform in the Senior School Auditorium, as young as Pre- Prep I in their Nativity. Concerts outside in the community take us to different schools, Fetes, halls and churches.
Our crown jewel is our new Soundscape Podcast equipment, which is permanently set up in the Music Room for pupils to come and use. We record a monthly podcast in the Music Room which is presented, edited and created by the pupils. This opportunity to access music and speech from behind a microphone is incredibly beneficial for pupils to build up their confidence and also to explore the alternative avenues that studying music offers.
Individual Music Lessons
Individual music lessons are available to girls from Form I upwards upon application. We have over thirty visiting instrumental teachers teaching a broad range of instruments, including piano and singing; the Director of Prep Music is always available to give advice on the taking up of instruments.
Girls in Pre-Prep are given a trial lesson with the Head of the relevant instrumental section to encourage their passion and ascertain their current level. Individual music lessons in Pre-Prep only start after approval is given by the Director of Prep Music and the Head of Pre-Prep.
We have a very busy department in the Prep School. To support our curriculum lessons listed below, we have activities at lunchtime, after school and at weekends. We offer clubs for all abilities and compete locally and nationally in many sports, enjoying great success.
All girls in Pre-Prep have lessons in gymnastics, movement, games, athletics and tennis. The girls learn to work independently, in pairs and small groups.
In PPI basic movement skills are taught with a view to beginning hockey and netball using modified equipment and rules suited to their age. From the summer of PPII, all girls start their swimming programme where we develop water confidence and begin 'stroke technique' in addition to the other activities.
Prep (Years 3-6)
All girls are taught netball, gymnastics, swimming, rounders, tennis, athletics and dance. Each lesson is 35 minutes and lessons are spread throughout the week to build in physical activity to their timetable on most days. The girls work towards improving their basic skills and techniques, gaining a greater understanding of the rules and an appreciation of the tactics involved in the games we play. They learn to work co-operatively and to compete fairly and appropriately against each other. Lessons are carefully differentiated to ensure all girls are working comfortably at their own level, achieving their individual potential.
In addition to this, the girls in Form I (Year 3) do a six week block of health related fitness and KS2 pupils all have the opportunity to take part in an outdoor and adventurous activities day.
The Prep School Library provides a bright, comfortable and cosy place for girls to browse, read and research. The library is generally open from 9:15 am – 2.45pm Monday through Friday during term time and is well stocked with over 8,000 fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as a collection of newspapers and magazines aimed specifically at children. The Library is managed by a librarian, who is supported by an enthusiastic group of parent volunteers, the Bibliocats.
Every form has a regularly scheduled period to visit the Library each week to exchange books, research and work on prep or simply enjoy quiet reading time. In addition the girls are encouraged to visit the Library during morning break and lunch break. All girls are expected to observe the published Library Code of Conduct when visiting the Library.
The Librarian and the Bibliocats, working with members of staff, organise a range of activities which stimulate the girls’ natural interest in stories, help them learn more about their world and support curriculum based topics. These activities include author visits, Librarians' Literary Lectures (found here on the main school library page), storytelling sessions, quizzes, book reviews, lunchtime book clubs and periodic book fairs. Each year group work has different reading challenges that they are encouraged to complete.
Book Week 28th February - 4th March 2022
This usually takes place annually in early March. It is a time where the whole school gets together to celebrate the love of reading and books. Each year this day has a unique theme. We have a book swap that takes place in the library as well as various quizzes and activities.
In 2020 the whole prep school got together to share a Shakespeare themed World Book Day Assembly.
Dress as Your Favourite Book Character Day is one of the biggest highlights from this day where students are allowed to come to school in fancy dress.
20th September 2022
On Tuesday 20th September we welcomed Karl Nova to speak to girls from Upper 2 to Lower 4 for the first of this year’s Librarians’ Literary Lectures.
Winner of the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) award in 2018, and the Ruth Rendell Award for his services to realising children’s literacy in 2020 Karl Nova is a Hip-Hop artist, author and poet.
Karl used his funny and engaging style to highlight the importance of reading, and illustrate how he developed his love of poetry and performed some of his work, whilst speaking about his childhood in the UK and Nigeria, further explored in his most recent collection of poems The curious case of Karl Nova, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medial 2022.
- Robin Stevens - October 2019
- Geraldine McCaughrean - June 2019
- Linda Newbery - January 2019
- Katherine Woodfine - June 2018
- Jo Cotterill - September 2017
- Elen Caldecott - September 2016
- Frances Hardinge - January 2016
- Lauren St John - June 2015
- Julia Golding - September 2014
- Theresa Breslin - June 2014
- Michelle Paver - September 2013
- Lauren Child - June 2013
- Marcus Sedgwick - March 2013
- Philip Reeve - June 2012
- Lauren Child - May 2012