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Cranleigh School, Cranleigh

A top co-ed day and boarding school with a dazzling array of facilities, a strong academic offering and a real sense of family and community.



Cranleigh School is an independent day and boarding school for pupils aged 13 to 18 years in the town of Cranleigh in Surrey. The school is long established, having been built in 1865 as a school for the sons of local farmers. It’s sits on an immaculately kept 280 acre site with a original red brick Victorian building – known simply as The Quad – as its architectural centrepiece, reached by an tree-lined driveway. It was designed and built by architect Henry Woodyer, who also built several stunning churches throughout the south-east including St Martin’s Church in Dorking and St Peter’s Church in Hascombe.

A beautiful red brick neo-gothic Victorian Chapel was built alongside the original building – also by Henry Woodyer – and the two buildings are now connected by a cloister. The chapel has recently undergone extensive renovations to bring it back to its original splendour after the interior was white-washed during the Sixties.

Cranleigh has 650 students – the maximum number – with a 60/40 split between boys and girls. Pupils come from the local area as well as a wide range of regional areas including London and further afield. About half of students come from Cranleigh Prep School, which is located across the road, and about 2% come from overseas. Whilst entry is at 13, Cranleigh offers places at 11+ for entry at 13 to give families certainty.

The school is not narrowly academically selective, and instead conducts a holistic review, valuing students who will try their hardest, participate in school life, take a risk and contribute to the friendly atmosphere within the houses and the school. Cranleigh prides itself on being a value-added school, which basically means the focus is not squarely on the final exam results, but on the progress that each student has made and how far they’ve come.


The school takes a philosophical approach to learning, with a focus on how pupils learn rather than how the teachers teach. The school advocates a learning technique that involves asking themselves questions that leads to a deeper level thinking, in the belief that this will prepare students not just for a future in the workplace but also in the wider world.


There’s a real campus-ey feel to Cranleigh School, with academic buildings and boarding houses spread across the site. The new Emms Building (named after a former headmaster) houses science labs and the language centre as well as a lecture hall that seats 150 and a light and airy gallery where exhibitions are held.

The original Quad building includes a wing known as the Connaught block which houses classrooms, the original dining hall and Williams Library and reading room. Next door, in a separate building, is Speech Hall used for plays, music concerts, keynote lectures and public events.

Currently under construction is the Van Hasselt Centre which will create a separate (more grown up) space for the Sixth Form including a cafe, and further academic classrooms. It’s expected to be finished this year.


Unsurprisingly the huge acreage offers numerous sporting facilities including three full-size artificial pitches (one of which is floodlit), nine astro courts, eight netball courts, 12 tennis courts, four squash courts, six Fives courts and athletics facilities including a discuss/javelin cage. For rugby, football and cricket, Cranleigh also has 10 grass pitches including an international standard 1st XV pitch, five outdoor cricket squares, an all-weather match pitch and 13 all-weather practice nets, plus a Cricket pavilion and an indoor cricket bubble with three practice nets.

But the list goes on though. Cranleigh also has its own on-site equestrian centre which has two sand schools, two country courses with fences ranging in height from 50cm to 1m, 30 horse boxes and all-year grass turn out. There’s also a nine-hole golf course and putting green, plus an outdoor education centre which houses an indoor climbing wall plus rowing machines, an indoor heated swimming pool, an indoor gym fitness centre plus a massive indoor sports centre housing 8 badminton courts, a volleyball court, 2 basketball courts, 2 five-a-side football pitches, 2 indoor hockey pitches, 2 netball courts, 2 tennis courts and dance studio. Safe to say students here aren’t left wanting for sports facilities – and while there’s an elite sports programme, the schools nurturing ethos encourages everyone of all abilities to make the most of them.


As well as sports, drama and arts are big at Cranleigh and like the rest of the school it’s not lacking in facilities. The Woodyer Art Studios includes six large studios with specialist provision for painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and ceramics, and a Sixth Form studio which allows  each student to have their own working space. The Design Engineering block has three studios and workshops with pretty much all the techy gadgetry you could ever want.

The Merriman Music School, named after the school’s first headmaster, has a recital hall that seats 100, a recording studio, an insulated rock room, and numerous rooms for teaching and practice. The school has 72 peripatetic music teachers. As well as the Speech Hall, there’s also the Vivian Cox Theatre which seats 100 and a more intimate performance space called the theatre in the round.


As well as a huge range of outdoor educational opportunities, Cranleigh also offers students the chance to undertake their Duke of Edinburgh award. There is also the option of joining the Combined Cadet Force.


In 2018, Year 11 pupils maintained last year’s record GCSE results, with 26% of all grades a 9, and 55% of all grades being 9/8. The overall pass rate was 97%, with 50% of pupils achieving 8 or more A*-A (or equivalent).

In the Sixth Form, students achieved an excellent set of A Level results this year, with 80 per cent of grades at A*-B and an overall pass rate of 100 per cent. Cranleigh also offers student the chance to study EPQs (Extended Project Qualifications) at Sixth Form, and this year students performed well with nearly 20 per cent achieving the top grade of an A*, and 90 per cent achieving A*-C. Cranleigh is now one of the largest establishments in the UK offering the EPQ, with more than 200 students in the Upper and Lower Sixth undertaking it in addition to three A Levels. The EPQ is highly valued by universities who reconise how well it prepares students for the study required in higher education.


For leavers, the focus is absolutely on ensuring that there is a range of options for further study. While the school commits 100% to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities if this is right for pupils, they know that there is a world beyond and other options are always on the table and the staff are on hand to help with the application process. In recent years students have accepted places at Oxbridge, Bristol, Durham, Nottingham, LSE, Imperial and UCL, as well as the more technological universities like Bath, Warwick, York, Loughborough and Sussex. Newcastle and Leeds, and Exeter universities are also popular destinations.


Although Cranleigh accepts both boarding and day pupils, in spirit it’s full boarding. Every pupil, whether day or boarding, has a place in one of the school’s seven single-sex Houses. There are four boarding Houses for the boys – North, East, Cubitt and Loveday for the boys – and currently three for the girls South, West and Rhodes – although an eighth girls House, Martlet, is in development.

The House system is at the centre of the school’s sense of community. Each House has its own housemaster or housemistress, and a deputy, who all live on-site with their own families and pets. There’s also a non-resident deputy, matrons and tutors, so the level of pastoral care here is high. Most boarders go home at weekends.


Martin Reader is at the helm here. He took up the headship in September 2014, coming from Wellington School in Somerset, where he was headmaster for eight years. Before that he was a senior deputy head at Reigate Grammar. He is also the current chair of the Boarding Schools’ Association. Mr Reader is passionate about boarding school education and all that it entails, believing it offers children the opportunity to pursue their passions and interests rather than spend that time commuting. He’s a fan of the inclusive culture and strong sense of family and community at Cranleigh, a boarding school he says is large enough for diverse opportunities but small enough for everyone to be known, supported and encouraged.


Cranleigh Prep School, a separate co-ed day and boarding school for children aged 7 to 13, is just across the road.


The school’s motto ‘Ex cultu robur’ – strength through culture – informs everything about the school and serves as a daily reminder (the words are seen throughout the school) that there’s more to education that just exam results. It’s the Cranleigh way.


Day fees are £31,170 annually and boarding is £37,905 a year. A 20% discount is offered for the third sibling and 30% for any subsequent siblings who attend wither the Cranleigh School or Cranleigh Preo school at any one time.


Parents I spoke to love the community and family feel of the school which they say is really quite special. The opportunities affording by such amazing facilities, which for a school of just 650 students, are frankly out of this world. Parents love that their children have access to so may opportunities in addition to the great education.


Good for: Parents who value a school with a serious sense of community, both within the school grounds and beyond. Cranleigh has high academic ambitions and, while sport is at the forefront of much of life here, drama and music certainly hold their own too. It is a school that’s VERY easy on the eye.

Not for: Children lead busy lives at Cranleigh, so for kids who like their time to be their own it’s probably not the best choice. Life at Cranleigh is based very much around the school campus, and weekends are packed with activities – even for children who don’t board.

Dare to disagree? Cranleigh School is holding a ‘What is Modern Boarding?’ event on Wed 10 Oct at the Royal Society in London SW1. There will be several speakers, including Martin Reader, the headmaster at Cranleigh and chair of the Boarding Schools’ Association.  The event is free, but you must register here

Cranleigh School also holds small group visits on Saturdays throughout the year – these are planned for 6 Oct, 3 Nov, 10 Nov and 1 Dec – book for those here.

Cranleigh School, Horseshoe Lane, Cranleigh, GU6 8QQ. Tel: 01483

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