Reigate St Mary’s
This town centre school has a happy, warm and friendly feel at its core - but with the added bonus of excellent academic results. What's not to love?
REIGATE ST MARY’S PREPARATORY AND CHOIR SCHOOL, REIGATE
One of only a handful of choral schools in the country, Reigate St Mary’s is a lovely independent day school set on 15 acres of parkland in the heart of Reigate. It’s a co-ed and non-selective school, taking pupils from age 2-11. There are 350 children in total, with most years having two form entry. Due to demand for places, they added an additional Year 3 class for September 2020 making three classes in that year group.
As a little sister to one of the country’s leading independent senior schools, Reigate Grammar School – where more than three-quarters of RSM students go on to – the school’s academic standards are incredibly high. And yet there’s a warm-hearted feel to the school, and an overwhelming sense that community and relationships are right at the heart of it.
Indeed, the majority of families live within walking distance of the school and as well as being heavily involved in school life, most are also involved in life within this community. Relationships are formed early on.
Nursery is made up of Green Shoots (2 ½ years +) and Kindergarten (3 years +). There is also a drop in toddler group for children up to 3 years old – called Little Shoots – which takes place in the Green Shoots classroom and play areas and is a lovely opportunity for families who may be interested in the nursery, as well as those already signed up, to get to know the environment and staff whilst their children have fun.
The size of the site is deceiving for a town centre school. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to know you’re in the middle of Reigate. From the entrance on the narrow Chart Lane, the school looks attractive but relatively compact. It’s not until you wander through the school to the Bund hill-top playground that you realise the extent of the grounds that stretch out beyond. This is a real oasis of calm.
There’s plenty to be impressed by here with three kids’ sized rugby pitches that become two cricket pitches in the summer, as well as another sporting pitch. There are also two multi-purpose courts. But it’s not just the sporting pitches that inspire – the playgrounds are vast with nature areas (including a pond), and wooded areas where dens are built. Outdoor learning is encouraged, particularly in the early years, and the outdoor areas are used all year round.
Academically, there are three main buildings. The historic centrepiece is Sunnyside – built in the late 1800s – which was the former home of Godfrey Searle who founded the St Mary’s Church Choir. Cedar House is where you’ll find the kindergarten as well as the ICT suites (more on those in a minute) and Beech House was built about 10 years ago adding purpose-built classrooms and a massive sports hall.
There’s a separate arts and science block, which doubles as the Year 6 classrooms, a dining hall, and a separate building for the nursery, aptly called Green Shoots. Apt, because as well as being home to the littlest children, it is also surrounded by loads of greenery. It really does feel like a rural location.
The school is big on technology and there are two ICT suites – one dedicated to Apple Macs and one to PCs – and the kids come to specialist lessons in the ICT suites from kindergarten upwards. From Year 4, children have their own iPads.
It all starts with the littlies at RSM – and it’s here where the foundations of learning, a love for learning and everything else follows. Green Shoots and Kindergarten have their own rooms, and a vast new adventure and play area all to themselves. They also regularly venture off to fields, the nature area and the woods to climb trees. It’s all encouraged.
There are twice yearly entries to Green Shoots – September and January – and kids do a minimum of three mornings a week. The learning is child-initiated with a focus on developing their independence. As well as independence, the nursery also pays a lot of attention to developing children’s language and their gross motor skills, which leads to the development of fine motor skills.
From the nursery, kids move into the kindergarten, where there are two interconnecting classrooms – and again, a separate playground. Pupils attend for a minimum of 5 mornings and can add additional afternoon sessions as required. The kids take part in specialist learning for music, PE and ICT and have the option of also doing ballet and dance.
Reception is the next step, and there are three classrooms which each have an outside door opening to their own courtyard play area. Learning is topic based with weekly themes.
The curriculum at RSM has always been carefully tailored to the needs of the children, using unique programmes and resources. When the school moved online during lockdown, the progression of each individual year group and the plans in place for the remainder of the year, were used to design a bespoke remote programme of study that ensured the children’s learning continued as it would have done had they been at school.
The school invested in an industry leading platform to deliver this and were delighted with how well the children responded to technology, a marvellous indicator of their adaptability and resilience – important future skills. Teachers reviewed every piece of work daily to ensure the children had regular feedback and were supported fully in their learning.
Of course, all of this had to be balanced with time away from the screen and the children’s wellbeing was always the priority. The online programme had flexibility built in to it and activities to support the children’s wellbeing were an integral part of the weekly curriculum. Form times via Microsoft teams ensured that teachers and children could talk face-to-face, and the Headmaster recorded weekly assemblies which helped to maintain a sense of cohesiveness across the school.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The school offers wrap around care for 48 weeks of the year, and for the littlies, this is run by the school staff so there’s a real continuity of care.
During term time there’s early morning care from 7.30am which includes a breakfast club for all ages from Green Shoots up to Year 6. After-school care extends to 6pm, with a hot tea included. For kids from Green Shoots to Year 2 there’s also a sibling late care until 4pm when the upper school day ends.
And of course, there’s a good range of extracurricular activities including sports like karate, netball, hockey and football, music including the choirs, and other like robotic lego, chess club, maths club and French.
During the holidays, onsite clubs are very well attended. The 2, 3 and 4 year olds have their own Early Years Holiday Club run by familiar staff in familiar surroundings. The older children enjoy a variety of activities and trips at the RSM Holiday Club and Ultimate Activities Camps provide even more choice on the RSM site over the holiday period.
Kids do well at RSM! More than three-quarters of Year 6 pupils go on to Reigate Grammar School (having been offered their place whilst still in Year 5). Those who don’t transfer to RGS go to schools like Dunottar School in Reigate, Caterham School, Box Hill School, Whitgift School, Epsom College, Ardingly College and Worth School.
The school believes that preparing children for their senior school is really all part of the process of preparing them for life. This is achieved through a rich, broad and stimulating curriculum covering STEM, Computing, Languages, Science, Philosophy, PHSE, the Humanities (History, Geography and Religious Studies), Art, Drama, Music and Sport as well as the core subjects of Maths and English
Most of all, Reigate St Mary’s want their pupils to become caring, confident, resilient and creative young people who will one day become leaders who care deeply about a sustainable and equitable future for everyone.
Philosophy for children is at the heart of a programme designed to develop critical thinking skills. A growth mind-set ensures they become resilient and creative learners, happy to take risks and learn from mistakes. Children have a voice and are involved in decisions that affect them by participating in school councils and committees. This prepares them to be active change makers of the future.
Marcus Culverwell has been at the school for 16 years, 14 of those as head teacher. He’s a local boy, having grown up in the area and he’s as much about strong pastoral care as he is strong academics. Mr Culverwell is a firm believer in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a motivational tool to help kids achieve their best, which basically means establishing firm foundations – establishing a secure environment, developing and building relationships and a sense of belonging – to help build and develop a child’s self-esteem. “They won’t remember what you taught them, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel,” he says.
Mr Culverwell is also passionate about social responsibility, and as well as encouraging compassion and care for others, he’s also championing a more sustainable approach to living in a less consumerist and materialistic society. You’ll notice small things like corridors that are dimly lit because the lights have been turned off when they’re not in use (the school has installed an electricity monitoring system), the focus on outdoor learning which includes children growing produce that is cooked in the school’s kitchen. Culverwell has written a book about climate Don’t Hide The Truth: Our Children’s Future and the Storms Ahead, which is available from Amazon.
The school has been shortlisted for Independent Prep School of the Year 2020 in recognition of its all-round excellence and holistic approach to education. Their outstanding integration of technology into the learning of even their youngest children and their award-winning robotics team sets them apart from other prep schools in the area.
Most years they compete in First Lego League, a competition that challenges children in developing STEM skills and gets them thinking like scientists and engineers. The RSM team – called Razor Sharp Minds – has won the regional championships multiple times.
Three mornings a week at Green Shoots is £1,140 per term, and five mornings in the Kindergarten is £1,900 a term. Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 is £4,120 a term, and Years 3-6 is £5,100 per term – this includes lunch. There are discounts for siblings who are at Reigate St Mary’s or Reigate Grammar.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents choose RSM for the high quality of teaching, the warmth of their pastoral care and the excellent grounds and facilities. The fact it’s that most kids progress from RSM to the highly successful and selective senior school, Reigate Grammar School, is also a huge draw.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families looking for a supportive, friendly school with a caring family feel that does well on the academics without being a hothouse.
Not for: It’s a town centre location, and while this is a big plus for some families, it may not suit everyone.
Dare to disagree? There is an open morning on Saturday 3 October. Alternatively you can book a private tour of the school at any time.
Reigate St Mary’s School, Chart Lane, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 7RN. Tel: 01737 244880. reigatestmarys.org