We catch up with Naomi Bartholomew, head of St Catherine’s School in Bramley
How long have you been at St Catherine’s School?
I joined St Catherine’s in 2009 as the deputy head and later became head of the prep school in 2012.
What do you see as the school’s main strengths?
We take enormous pride in providing an environment that is both nurturing and challenging in equal measure. We have hugely talented and committed staff, and the relationships between the staff, parents and girls are outstanding.
How do you ensure every girl achieves her potential?
We recognise the partnership between home and school is the key to a successful education. Hence, we adopt an open-door policy for parents, who we hope feel welcome at all times. We ensure that the girls are provided with activities that challenge them. Specialist teachers in PE, ICT and Music enhance the work of the form tutors, and the girls are taught in superb surroundings. We also make time to pause during a busy week. Assemblies, form times and tutor group activities provide this chance to reflect. Weekly chapel services also play a key role in the girls’ education here.
Can you tell us a bit about St Catherine’s history?
Having opened to 11 boarders and just six day students back in September 1885, St Catherine’s grew in popularity. By 1890, the buildings were extended and in 1894, the chapel was completed. By 1945, there were 97 boarders and 155 day girls, and in 1949, the governors purchased Church House which forms the focal part of the prep school. Decades of expansion then followed – the Anniversary Halls, which house a gymnasium, sports hall and an auditorium, were opened to mark 125 years. And, as the great-great granddaughter of Lord Ashcombe, one of the school’s founders, HRH Duchess of Cornwall agreed to be patron.
At what age can pupils board at St Catherine’s?
We have occasional boarders in Year 6 (aged 10-11) then more convert to boarding as they proceed through the Senior School. We welcome full, weekly and occasional boarders and many London families find our weekly boarding option, with a bus taking girls home on a Friday night and back to school on Sunday evening, works very well.
What makes St Catherine’s an attractive option for London families?
Many St Catherine’s families have chosen to relocate to the Surrey Hills for a better quality of life. We are also in an excellent location for those commuting both into London and travelling abroad via Gatwick or Heathrow.
What’s new for the school?
We are delighted with our latest addition – the Wonder Lab – our refurbished science lab opened by Maggie Aderin-Pocock last term. Science is a real strength here and we feel strongly that the very best facilities be provided. We also launched our Baby Cats Creatives series and are welcoming two to four year olds for music, storytime, arts and physical activities. These have proven popular already. We also introduced our Create the Future campaign which includes a new Sixth Form boarding house, the CATalyst (a new teaching space for science, tech, maths and digital learning) and the Art and MakerSpace which will extend our current facilities for fine art, ceramics, textiles and photography.