Cranmore School, West Horsley
A lovely Catholic prep school for boys and girls with strong sports and music offerings, plus excellent results. Nothing at all to fault here.
CRANMORE SCHOOL, WEST HORSLEY, SURREY
Cranmore School is a bucolic day school situated on 25 acres on the Epsom Road at West Horsely, between Guildford and Leatherhead. It’s perfectly positioned for those in Guildford, Leatherhead and Dorking, as well as the numerous villages dotted in between. The school also attracts families from as far as Weybridge, Claygate, Cobham, Ripley and Esher thanks to the school’s bus transport service.
Cranmore is co-ed, but has only been fully so since 2016 – which means you won’t see any girls in years 5 to 8. There are about 420 pupils at the school, which is made up of the nursery, the junior school (reception – year 3) and the senior school (years 4-8). In the junior school, classes are taught predominantly by each class’s form tutor, with specialist teachers for languages, music and sports. In the seniors, pupils are taught predominantly by subject specialists including maths, English, science, history, geography, French, Mandarin and religious education, as well as music, art and design, ICT, drama, PSHE, and sports. In years 7 and 8, pupils pursue an academic programme which prepares them for scholarships and Common Entrance Exams.
It’s a fairly young school – at just 50 years old – and the buildings and design reflect this. There’s a real sense of space, with big airy rooms, wide corridors and plenty of windows.
There’s some serious wow factor going on at Cranmore School when it comes to the facilities – and this starts in the visitors’ carpark with the outdoor sports fields. The main carpark is flanked on one side by sporting fields, and there are more grassy fields, astro turf pitches and playing courts further beyond those. And then, just when you think you’ve seen them all, you’ll discover that just across the road (via a cute timber footbridge) there are several more playing fields, plus a nine-hole par 3 golf course. In total there are seven football / rugby / cricket pitches, a full-sized astroturf hockey pitch on which there’s also space for four full-size tennis courts, a five-a-side astroturf football pitch and an astroturf muga (multi-use games area).
Still on the sporting facilities, but moving indoors, you’ll find a 25m heated swimming pool, a sports hall with football, cricket and basketball courts, as well as squash courts and a fitness suite. There’s another separate indoor sports hall, with climbing walls. Seriously impressive.
But for the undoubted ‘wow’ these facilities will no doubt induce, there’s a whole lot more to ohh and ahh about, including an impressive music block, a science labs, computing and design studios and a light and bright art studio.
While the school offers the usual array of sports you’d expect to find at an independent prep school – football, rugby, netball, hockey, cricket, gymnastics, swimming, cross country running etc – it stands out for both the number and variety of sports – more than 25 different sports – some of which you rarely see offered to kids this age including skiing, golf, rowing. Unusually for a school that’s not situated on or near a river, rowing is offered to older pupils as a main sport. The school has its own fleet of six boats, and shares facilities with Walton Rowing Club at Walton-on-Thames where there’s a boathouse and a fleet of 40 more boats. Skiing is at the dry slope at Sandown throughout the year, and kids who show promise are invited to join the Ski Squad and train independently with former International, John Harris.
Former England rugby player and coach Paul Hodgson is the school’s director of sport.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
While the sporting line up is undoubtedly impressive, music and drama is just as important at Cranmore. There’s a separate music block, with two music classrooms plus seven individual music rooms and a large auditorium. More than 250 music lessons take place here, in everything from the piano to the pipe organ. There’s also a wide variety of music ensembles for kids to get involved in – including string, sax, brass, woodwind and several choirs.
For a school that’s not academically selective, Cranmore School punches well above its weight. About a half of all pupils move on at 11+, with half staying on. Pupils move on to the top academic schools in the area, as well as further afield. This year pupils have gained scholarships to Hampton School, Winchester College, St John’s School in Leatherhead; Reigate Grammar School; Tonbridge School; King’s College School in Wimbledon; Epsom College; Brighton College; Royal Grammar School, Guildford; Reed’s School, Cobham, and Cranleigh School.
Michael Connolly is entering his 13th year as head teacher at Cranmore, and his passion for education and teaching is distinctly evident. He still teaches classes at the school, and runs an extra curricular electronics club. He is keen to foster a learning culture at the school, not just among the pupils, but also among the teachers and likes to lead from the front.
Last year, he completed his third Masters degree (Philosophy), adding it to an already impressive haul that includes a BSc in Physics, a BA in philosophy, an MA in Theology and an MEd in Leadership in Education. And he encourages his staff to continue learning.
As well as almost 40 years in independent education, including 12 years as head teacher at Barrow Hills Schools in Witley, Mr Connolly also did a brief stint working for British Aerospace as a lecturer in physics and maths to the Royal Saudi Air Force. His wife, Shelagh, also works at the school and the pair are very much a team.
Little people can start from 2 years of age in the nursery and it’s waaaaay superior to the various nurseries I’ve used for my kids over the years. The nursery is spacious and bright, with a great outdoor space that’s recently been completely redesigned and renovated. It’s part of the main school, housed in the original old school house, but is self-contained. As you’d expect, the nursery children use the facilities within the main school, including the sports fields, sports halls, swimming pools, computer rooms and music rooms. They also attend Forest School.
The nursery is open from 8am-6pm throughout the year, with options for children to attend part-time and full-time either term time all year round. There’s also a Toddler group held once a week on a Friday.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The breakfast club is open from 8am every day, with no booking required, and there’s an extensive extra-curricular programme offering more than 30 different clubs ranging from various sporting clubs like judo, swimming, gymnastics, and rowing to music, dance, art and craft, ornithology and a film society.
Juniors (reception to year 3) are £4,125 a term, and Seniors (years 4 to 8) are £4,925 a term. The fees include games, lunches, stationery, swimming lessons, most after-school clubs and the use of books.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents love the all-rounder offering at Cranmore. Unsurprisingly, the sporting facilities are a huge attraction, but the music programme is also a draw. The school’s Christian ethos and pastoral care is also on the tick list.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Well-rounded kids. The vibe is informal and friendly, but academically strong – not an easy mix to pull off. The superior sport, drama and music facilities are impressive and all children get to participate fully.
Not for: Those who require boarding or a town location.
Dare to disagree? Have a look for yourself the next whole school open mornings are Sat 2 March and Fri 3 May 2019.
Cranmore School, Epsom Road, West Horsley, KT24 6AT. Tel: 01483 280340. cranmoreprep.co.uk