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Caterham School, Caterham

An all-through day and boarding school set on an impressive 200 acre site with strong academics and great pastoral care.

WHAT? WHERE?

Caterham School, Surrey

Caterham School is an all-through day and boarding school set on a stunning 200 acre site in the Harestone Valley. It’s a school that comes with an impressive reputation for academic excellence, but one that also gets the pastoral care and the wellbeing of students exactly right. And with an excellent offering of extra-curricular activities, pupils leave Caterham as well-rounded and confident young adults with the skills to navigate their way successfully and confidently through life. There’s an ethos that teaches children to learn how to learn, and to love learning.

You’ll find both the senior school and the adjoining prep school on the outskirts of Caterham. It’s in a handy position, just under 1.5km from Caterham mainline station, which has direct trains to and from London. A shuttle bus also runs to and from the school to Upper Warlingham station, which also had direct service to London, but on a different line.

The school was purpose-built in 1884, and until 1995 it was boys only – although now there’s an even 50-50 split of girls and boys. There are just shy of 1300 pupils across the entire school – 980 in the senior school and 285 in the prep school.

While the school is selective and high-achieving, it’s far from elitist and hot-housey. There’s a strong emphasis on bringing children into the school who have a wide range of personalities, skills and potential. And there’s an admirable appreciation that children develop – academically and socially – at different rates. The admissions process therefore takes a gentle approach: an interview with the headmaster followed by a day of activities followed by an assessment exam. One third of pupils come to the senior school from the prep school, with the rest coming in at the 11+ and 13+.

Notable at Caterham, too, is the strong emphasis on wellbeing. In fact, it’s more than strong, it runs deep throughout the entire school (juniors and seniors), seeping in at every level.

FACILITIES

Caterham School, Surrey

In a word? Wow! First impressions can’t fail to dazzle – the school campus straddles both sides of the Harestone Valley Road, with the main school building – an elegant red-brick Victorian structure – and several other school blocks on the left including the Performing Arts Centre, and a sports centre with indoor pool and fitness centre on the right. Big news for 2022 – the already impressive sports centre will be extended, adding dedicated PE classrooms, a bigger fitness gym with a mezzanine, a café with a terrace overlooking the astro sports fields, and a sports rehab room. It’s expected to be completed by Easter 2023.

But wait… there’s more! There are more playing fields here than you can shake a hockey stick at as well as woodlands, a high-ropes course and an outdoor learning centre. And let’s not overlook the five netball courts, the 25-metre indoor swimming pool, the flood-lit astroturf and the double sports hall. Phew!

THE ACADEMICS

Academics are important, but there’s also a focus on the process of learning, rather than simply gaining knowledge to pass exams. There’s a Learning to Learn programme which helps pupils develop skills such as note-taking, presentation skills and problem solving, as well as self-organisation and motivation.

There’s also an Enrichment Programme – open to both scholars and non-scholars from Years 7 through to 13 – which helps extend learning through clubs and societies, lectures, subject clinics and competitions.

For pupils interested in studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, there’s a dedicated society in place to offer support and guidance.

MUSIC AND DRAMA

Caterham School, Surrey

The Performing Arts Centre was built only a few years ago and houses two theatres, a dance studio and a recording studio as well as music rooms. Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong performing arts presence at the school, and as well as regular drama and music productions and recitals, there are lessons in a choice of about 25 different musical instruments.

Music is taught to all students in years 7 and 8, and is offered as an elective subject from year 9 up including at GCSE and A-Levels, and there’s also an option to learn an instrument with a choice of about 25.

The music department has over 20 music groups, with regular music lessons. The music and drama department combine to put on a production.

SPORT

Caterham School, Surrey

Caterham School does well at sport – and with the facilities it has to offer pupils, that’s hardly a surprise. But sport is not the school’s main calling card – and there’s a real determination to offer sport for the enjoyment of all pupils alongside supporting high flyers. Those who are gifted are encouraged and pushed to reach their full potential – and a good number of pupils here are heading for careers as professional sportsmen and women – but the priority is to give all students a positive experience of sport and that includes camaraderie, sportsmanship and the health benefits of being active as much as the competition.

Having said that, the school has some justifiable sporting brags – with some of its students competing at county, national and international level including 10 girls who play lacrosse internationally and one pupil who competed in last summer’s Olympics in the men’s hockey team. Two of the school’s deputy heads of sport also have high-level sporting roles outside of the school – one is the coach of the Oval Invincibles women’s cricket team and the other is a professional hockey player with Surbiton – so the pupils are tapped in the world of professional sport by default.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Caterham School is one of only a handful of Apple Distinguished Schools in the UK, which means it’s recognised for its excellence, leadership and innovation in digital learning. iPads are used to support learning throughout the school, and there’s a dedicated Innovation Centre, in which pupils learn digital skills from coding to animation.

A new subject has also been introduced into the curriculum called Edge – Explore, Develop, Grow, Evolve – which takes the school’s leading approach to innovation and tech even further. As well as furthering their knowledge of technology, pupils are also skills in innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurism.

The science block – called The Davey Building after a former headmaster Rob Davey – is relatively new and houses no less than 15 laboratories. (The ground floor is also where you’ll find the dining hall, or The Refectory as it’s known.)

PASTORAL CARE

Wellbeing is the buzzword of the moment, particularly at schools – and so it should be. It’s a hugely important facet of school life. But here, pastoral care is more than just a ‘wellbeing week’ each year, it’s intrinsic to how the school runs on every level. Caterham is one of few schools in the country which dedicates weekly timetabled lessons to wellbeing covering a range of topics to equip pupils with the skills and be mentally and physically healthy, and with an awareness to make healthy decisions and engage positively within the community.

Sarah Griffiths, the Deputy Head of Wellbeing, says one of the essential elements in the school’s wellbeing programme is teaching emotional literacy – teaching pupils how to cope with life’s problems and take responsibility for their own choices.

Several wellbeing initiatives are also in place across the school which promote wellbeing including pastoral discussion groups, a study buddy programme, School Council and the Digital Council. And as with most schools, there’s a health centre with trained staff on hand to aid in issues relating to physical and mental health.

THE RESULTS

Caterham School, Surrey

In 2021, 83 per cent of all grades at A Level were A*/A grades, and almost 90% of pupils went on to their first choice of university across Oxbridge, Russell Group and top 10 UK universities, including eight who have gone on to study medicine or veterinary courses. Students are also successful in attaining professional apprenticeships.

At GCSE, 92% of the 2021 cohort achieved Grades 9-7, and 50% of all grades were the top Grade 9. The average Grade for a Caterham pupil in 2021 was 8.1.

LITTLIES

Caterham Prep School is on the same site as the senior school, but with separate entrances for pre-prep and prep school – so it’s set apart from the senior school, while still being integrated and connected. Read our full review of Caterham Prep School here.

THE HEAD

Ceri Jones, Headmaster, Caterham Prep School, Surrey

Ceri Jones has been the Headmaster at Caterham for five years, and before that was at Tonbridge School for 12 years. He’s a lovely chap, friendly and down-to-earth – and has an indisputable love for education. He studied History at Cambridge, and still teaches history at A-Level. I’m always impressed by a Headteacher who still finds time to fit teaching into their busy schedules.

His secret to the school’s ongoing success? He’s justifiably proud of the school’s child-focussed approach, and says the great results come by engaging with each individual child and encouraging each pupil to be their own person. There’s also a culture at the school where children are not afraid about getting things wrong, and this is something Mr Jones is pleased with.

BOARDING

The school is very much run like a boarding school – with staff living on site – which creates a flexibility that allows day students to stay after the school day ends to make use of the facilities. And this no doubt adds to the sense of community within the school.

About 15 per cent of students at Caterham board – half are weekly boarders and half are full boarders. From September 2023, half-weekly boarding will also be an option – giving pupils that chance to board for the same two or three nights each week.

EXTRA-CURRICULAR

There’s a lot going on at Caterham School with 18 different sports on offer, 20 music groups and over 36 clubs and societies available to join – everything from archery and bee keeping to textiles and fashion club.

FEES

Fees are in line with other schools in the area. The termly fee for day pupils in Years 7-13 is £6,560, for Sixth Form entry it’s £6,875. Full boarding £13,010 per term for Years 9-13 and £13,710 for Sixth Form entry. Weekly boarding is £11,055 per term for Years 9-13 and £11,655 for Sixth Form entry..

WORD ON THE GROUND

Caterham School has an excellent reputation and is a popular choice locally among parents. It’s a quietly confident school that consistently achieves top results. Caterham is consistently in the top ranking for co-ed schools nationally for GCSE and A Level results.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for:  Parents and kids looking for a prestigious school in a spacious green setting with superior sports and drama facilities, exceptional wellbeing and impressive academic results.

Not for:  I’m struggling to think of anyone that wouldn’t fit in and do well at Caterham. But at a push, I’d say it may not suit tiger parents who may want a more hot-housey environment.

Dare to disagree?  Visit the school and see for yourself – there’s an Open Morning on Sat 17 Sept, and a Visitor Morning on Wed 21 Sept. Virtual open evenings are also planned for Wed 15 June (8pm) and Tues 13 Sept (7pm). Book here.

Caterham School, Harestone Valley Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6YA. Tel: 01883 343028. caterhamschool.co.uk

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