St Catherine’s is about education in its broadest sense. Moreover, as a girls' school, St Catherine's ensures that its students develop in an environment which suggests to them in everything they see around them that there is nothing that a woman cannot achieve.
We believe that St Catherine's girls are well placed to pursue their further education when they leave school at eighteen as independent, sensible, caring and competent young women who will have much to offer in life. We provide sound advice and guidance on further education and careers and we prepare them to take their place as citizens of the world.
Academic results are important - the school is comfortably placed in the infamous league tables - but we believe that there is much more to an all-round education for the young women of the 21st century.
Our hallmarks are the breadth of opportunity afforded to our students and the special atmosphere of support and encouragement. The philosophy that happiness at school is the key to success and enjoyment for each individual underpins everything we do.
The Ethos of St Catherine's School is embedded in its Aims which are:
to provide an exceptional all-round education which will prepare girls for happy and fulfilling lives
to create a safe and healthy environment in which the wellbeing of our pupils is paramount, enabling them to enjoy their education and thrive personally.
to provide excellent academic teaching, up-to-date facilities and a wide range of extra-curricular activities
to encourage a love of learning and an ability to think creatively and independently
to foster the personal, spiritual, moral, social, cultural and physical development of our pupils as well as their academic potential
to encourage an understanding of the Christian values, thoughts and deeds, in accordance with our Foundation as a Church of England School, within a culture of understanding and sensitivity to students of all faiths or none.
to encourage our pupils to treat everyone with respect and courtesy and show concern for the needs of others, fostering teamwork and collegiality in our diverse community and the world beyond school.
to encourage the girls to embrace the inclusive spirit of St. Catherine’s, both as members of the School and lifelong as active members of the St Catherine’s Association.
to give our pupils the right guidance and self-belief to help them develop fully their own unique talents and abilities, in order to achieve and succeed, both in and beyond the classroom
to encourage each girl to develop the skills of leadership and a sense of responsibility towards others, within School and beyond
to develop a strong partnership between staff and parents to support the girls throughout their school years
Headmistress, Alice Phillips concurs with fellow head, Rosie McColl in the need for girls-only education. In Independent Education Today, May 2022, Rosie McColl wrote: "While there is inequality in the world, there will always be a place for girls-only education. Put simply: there is work to do. Our aim is to create an environment in which girls can flourish, and we do this by providing a safe space for them to discover their passions and develop their strengths, alongside teachers who are experts in understanding the pressures and the challenges of being a young woman in the world today."
How would we describe St Catherine’s Students?
They are inquisitive, thoughtful, and will be passionate about the things that matter to them. They are also tolerant, inclusive, and interested in what makes each of us different. Equality is important to all of us in the St Catherine’s community.
Pupils readily promote an understanding of their own and other cultures at the school. They are tolerant of others and respect differences, particularly those who have particular needs or characteristics. Pupils thoroughly enjoy the cultural diversity of the school community.
ISI Educational Quality Inspection, 2016
Discrimination of any kind is therefore not tolerated here. Students are encouraged to be who they are and to explore who they may become.
It is important that St Catherine’s provides an environment to support everyone. Staff and students are working together to build on our foundation to create an even more inclusive culture.
Each academic department reviews its schemes of work to provide as much diversity as possible and will take opportunities in displays and presentation to embrace difference.
Beyond the curriculum, students are being encouraged to contribute by developing discussion groups and links across the School. The Straight and Gay Alliance (‘SAGA’) is an example of what our students are doing – self-organised and self-maintained. Dedicated EDI Sixth Form prefects work with staff and students in promoting diversity issues and programmes.
St Catherine’s aims to support all our students equally. We are delighted to welcome students with disabilities and our Learning Support team provides detailed support to those with specific learning needs or neurodiverse profiles.
We want all students at St Catherine’s to feel valued and to feel that who they are is important. Dialogue between students, parents, and School staff is welcomed.
Principles and values are actively promoted which facilitate the personal development of pupils as responsible, tolerant, law-abiding citizens.
ISI Regulatory Compliance Inspection Report, 2019
It is part of the ethos of St. Catherine’s that our able young women of all ages and stages are encouraged to take on leadership moments or role. They start with first steps in the Pre-Preparatory years where putting on an assembly presentation leads the school in worship, and into the Prep. School years where they can take up monitor responsibilities, form captaincies, school council membership and so on, culminating in Year 6 prefect positions of all kinds in preparation for serving the community both in their senior schools and in life in general.
In the Senior School, form captaincies and eco-monitor posts are given out termly, and within the house system there are many opportunities to lead groups or activities as the years go on. All girls may make presentations to their house group on something interesting that they have done, and by the time they reach Year 10, several girls are ready to assume stand-in house captaincies and games captaincies during the study leave of the girls in years 11 and 13 while they take public examinations.
In the Sixth Form, leadership can take the form of being selected to be a member of the prestigious Sixth Form Charities Board, to running a Young Enterprise Company. You can be a Duke of Edinburgh's Award Junior Leader, or a PE Junior Sports Leader. You may be involved in directing the house drama competition of conducting the house singing. The Houses also have prefect posts for all the Upper 6 girls.
Alongside this sits a raft of Subject Mentor positions for girls who work with Heads of Department to promote their subject area or to help support younger girls with their studies and offer advice from the pupil perspective when options are being chosen for GCSE or AS Level.
Finally, the School Officers, taking up post for a year from Easter of their Lower 6 year, play a very significant part in helping run the School. They can be chosen for a great many different posts which play to each girl’s individual strengths. Job descriptions exist at this level and a real preparation for leadership at university and beyond is the goal.
Leadership is something that is often intuitive, but it can also be learned, through a proper programme of experience, built up over many years. We are very proud of our girls as they lead their peers at many different levels and it is our expectation of them that wanting to lead in an area where you are confident is something to be proud of, and to aim for.
Alice Phillips - Headmistress
Naomi Bartholomew - Headmistress (Preparatory School)
The Governors’ Strategic Plan for the School and 20 year development plan for the School site is revisited annually and advice and guidance sought from the School Architects. The balance we strike is always in favour of expenditure on teaching and learning and having the right academic staff throughout the school. This is what we call our A* priority.
To deliver outstanding lessons, teachers need many resources, including technology, materials and to a lesser extent books etc. The buildings in which they work are important too, and a balance has to be struck to ensure that the facilities are ‘fit for purpose’ and enabling teachers to excel as they educate all our girls.
Schools aim to make a modest surplus from their income to invest in new buildings and facilities. Below we offer you a quick look at building projects over the past decade and what is on offer for our students.
In particular, we highlight in the Senior School:
- The 125th Anniversary Halls were dedicated by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in 2014. The whole school community benefits from this award-winning facility which includes a 300-seat auditorium, boasting some of the best acoustics in the country. An orchestra pit, technical box and recording studio provide girls with exciting opportunities to enjoy Music and Drama. In addition, the Drama Studio is in full dark mode. The Auditorium offers a capacious environment for weekly Senior School assemblies and has proved a perfect venue to host prestigious speakers. Prep School girls also make the best use of the facilities with their drama productions and Nativity plays. The Forum Cafe is open to students after School and a licensed Bar enables evening events to have a wonderful social element for parents.
- The equally impressive adjacent sports’ facilities, offer a multi-purpose sports’ hall, dance studio, gymnasium, swimming pool, squash court and fully-fitted fitness suite.
- The Music Block - home of different sized music rooms, a small recital room and music technology.
- The Art & MakerSpace – opened in September 2022, the creative arts at St Catherine’s are flourishing. In addition to our CAD Suite, Ceramics, DT and Fine Art, new spaces have been added to offer two Textiles Studios, a MasterChef style Culinary Arts Studio, a professional Dark Room and Photographic Studio and a Sixth Form Art Studio. There is no shortage of inspiration and imagination!
- The 6 – with over 190 girls in our Sixth Form we have dedicated spaces for study and socialising as befitting their increasing independence, autonomous study and in recognition of their leadership roles in School.
- The Sixth Form Library - enables Lower and Upper Sixth Form girls to study quietly in a dedicated Library space.
- The 6 – a British Boarding Schools Award-winning space offering a generous Common Room, equipped kitchen and social area for day girls and boarders alike, as well as 44 twin study bedrooms and contemporary bathrooms for our boarding community. More on The 6 can be found here.
And in our Prep School:
- The Pre-Prep and Prep Library – our welcoming and fun reading spaces for Pre-Prep and Prep girls are complemented by our dedicated Librarian who encourages the girls to read widely.
- Littlewood Lodge - named by former Prep School girls, this garden building nestles at the edge of the girls’ ‘little woods’ and provides a teaching space connected to nature.
- The Cottage Garden – the girls have a dedicated garden space with raised beds, a stocked greenhouse and outdoor reading and story-telling area.
- The Soundscape – our Prep Music Room that allows girls to explore, discover and be immersed in music and includes an ‘orchestra on the ceiling’ and magnetic music walls.
- The WonderLab – our Prep Science Laboratory, opened in 2019 by space-scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, this space is carefully designed for young minds to be inquisitive about science and hands-on with experiments. Our Prep School has recently won a prestigious Award for Science teaching – the Primary Science Quality Mark.
- The Prep Art Studio – a rejuvenated space for Art, Design Technology, and the Culinary Arts.
To see how the School site has evolved since opening in 1885, please see our timeline.
To read about our Create the Future plans, which have delivered The WonderLab, The 6 and The Art & MakerSpace with The CATalyst as our final ambition, please click here.