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Halstead Preparatory School for Girls, Woking

This small girls' school tucked away in a leafy part of Woking is warm and nurturing and for an academically non-selective school, the girls do particularly well. It's a good all-rounder, but maths is particularly strong.

WHAT? WHERE?

Halstead Prep School for Girls is a small independent day school for girls aged 2-11 tucked away in the pretty suburbs of Woking. There are 180 girls here in total, with mostly two-form entry all the way through the school.

The school was founded in 1927 at Halstead Place in Kent – hence the name – but moved to Devizes on Wiltshire during the Second World War. It reopened on the current site in Woking in 1947.

A Christian ethos is at the heart of this small school but pupils from all faiths are welcome. Entry is non-selective, and there’s a range of abilities. It’s about each girl doing the best she can – but that said, there’s a strong individual focus on each girl and the academics are excellent. Kids come to the school mainly from the local Woking area up to about five miles away – which means there’s a strong community of local families.

FACILITIES

There’s no sprawling acreage here – it’s set on about 2.5 suburban acres – so don’t expect long curving driveways and multiple sports fields. But while it’s small, it’s also perfectly formed. The main school building is an attractive Victorian house and there’s a cluster of other buildings including a modern addition built in 2014 which houses the dining hall and a food tech classroom.

There’s also a separate music suite, ICT suite, science lab, design and technology classroom, an art room and a sports hall, plus a drama studio. Outside, the grounds are lovely with grassy sports fields, a running track and tennis and netball courts. There’s also a ‘secret garden’ which is a quieter space.

SPORT

Netball is the main sport at Halstead, as might be expected of an all-girls prep school. But hockey, gymnastics, athletics, rounders and cricket are also played. Hockey is played off-site the Woking Hockey Club. Swimming is taught to all girls from Year 2 upwards, at Woking Swimming Pool.

MUSIC, DRAMA AND THE ARTS

Both drama and dance are popular here and every girl is on the stage in a major production every year – starting with Nursery and the annual Nativity by the Year 1 and 2. Years 3 and 4 put on production in the spring, and Years 5 and 6 perform a summer play, and drama and dance classes are designed around each production. The girls also take part in regular specialist events such as “Halstead’s Got Talent”. 

Music is taught from Nursery upwards and there are plenty of ensembles and choirs plus the Halstead Orchestra. In Year 2, girls learn the recorder and in Year 3 they take part in a ‘music circus’ which gives them the opportunity to learn a range of instruments throughout the year. There are three purpose-built music rooms for lessons and peripatetic teachers offer lessons in voice, piano, cello, violin, clarinet, flute, saxophone, trombone and cornet.

Art is seen as an important part of the curriculum at Halstead, and taught in a bright, modern and well-equipped art room. Artwork is displayed around the school.

LITTLIES

Girls start Little Chicks at age 2, then move into Ducklings when they’re aged 3. From September 2022, there is the option for parents to use the 46 weeks of the year nursery provision. Parents can still chose term time only should they wish to.

Inside the rooms are light and bright and there is a wonderful outdoor play area that flows from the classroom. All learning is centred around play, with specialist lessons in PE, dance, drama, music and outdoor learning.

ACADEMICS

As the girls move up the school, more specialist teaching is introduced. In Year 1 and 2, girls are taught mostly by their form teacher, with specialist subject teaching in PE, dance, music, art, ICT, drama, French and swimming (which begins in Year 2). In Year 3, Spanish is introduced, and in Years 5 and 6 girls also have specialist teachers for maths and English

Maths is particularly strong at Halstead, and girls take part in national and international maths competitions. The school also a centre for Royal Institution maths masterclasses which helps to encourage and inspire girls at Halstead as well as other local schools in maths.

Girls at Halstead do well academically and in 2021/22 girls were offered and accepted places at Guilford High School, Tormead School in Guildford, St Teresa’s in Effingham, Surbiton High, St Catherine’s Bramley, Sir William Perkins’s School in Chertsey, Notre Dame in Cobham, St George’s in Weybridge and Farnborough Hill School. A big emphasis is placed on helping girls find the right senior school for them.

PASTORAL CARE

The school has a reputation for being warm and caring – which is no doubt in part due to the size. All the staff know all of the pupils and strong relationships are built. There’s a strong culture of praise and encouragement within the school, and responsibility is encouraged in the girls with opportunities to join the school council or eco council. All Year 6 pupils are prefects and given and positions of responsibility.

THE HEAD

Sharon Maher has been Headmistress at Halstead for two years arriving in September 2020 from Glendower Prep in South Kensington where she was Deputy Head for three years. Before that she was an assistant head at Greenfield School in Woking.

She worked in the city for about 15 years before coming into teaching, and is a strong advocate of single-sex education especially for girls who she believes thrive in an all-girls setting. She’s warm and friendly, and has an aura of calm, which is no doubt perfect for instilling a sense of quiet confidence at this formative age.

QUIRKS

As well as homework set by teachers, pupils also have the opportunity to do optional ‘take away’ homework – and what’s more many of the girls will chose to do so.

WRAP AROUND CARE

Breakfast Club is available from 7.30am and after-school care is available until 6pm every day except Friday when it’s 5.30pm. The school day starts at 8.20am (girls can be dropped off at 8am) and ends at 3.35pm, after which there are a range of extra curricular activities on offer. Girls in Years 3 to 6 have a sports afternoon each week which runs until 4.45pm. Optional Prep is offered to girls in Years 3 and 4 until 4.45pm (no charge) and is compulsory for girls in Years 5 and 6 (first term). Other extra curricular clubs and activities range from judo, yoga, ballet and dance to pottery and art, tennis, choir and Robotics Lego Mindstorm.

ISI REPORT

The school had its last full inspection by the ISI in 2014, and achieved a rating of ‘excellent’ across the board. Read the full report here.

MOBILE PHONE POLICY

The girls tend not bring mobile phones to school. Year 6 are allowed to bring in a phone if they are walking to school on their own, but they are required to leave it at the office at the start of each day and collect it at the end of the day.

TRANSPORT

A school mini bus follows a tailored route in and around Woking and the surrounding area for pick-up each morning.

FEES

Fees are £1,980 per term in the nursery for five morning sessions, £1,500 for five afternoon sessions and £3,000 per term for five full days. In Reception, it’s £3,725 per term, rising to £4,165 per term in Years 1 and 2; £5,095 per term in Years 3 and 4; and £5,245 per term for pupils in Years 5 and 6.

Breakfast Club is available from 7.30am at a cost of £4.65 a session (including breakfast), or free from 8am (without breakfast). After-school care is available until 6pm (5.30pm on Fridays) at a cost of £4.65 per 30-minute session and includes tea.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Parents of Halstead girls love the small, homely and nurturing feel at the school, while also achieving great results. There’s a focus on empowering the girls and on growing their confidence.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for:  Families looking for a small nurturing all-girls school with a focus on individual learning and getting the best out of each girl. Halstead girls are confident, resilient and well-rounded.

Not for: It’s a relatively small school, which might feel constraining to ‘big fish’ types by the time they get to Year 6. It’s also wholeheartedly all-girls and there are no plans for that to change, so if you’re thinking co-ed might be a better fit for your child, this probably isn’t the right school.

Dare to disagree? Visitors are always welcome – contact the school to arrange a personal tour.

Halstead Prep School for Girls, Woodham Rise, Woking, Surrey, GU21 4EE. Tel: 01483 772682.

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