This day and boarding school in Surrey takes girls of mixed ability and enables them to succeed at the highest creative and academic levels according to their gifts and interests.
When asked what is distinctive about Prior’s Field, Head Tracy Kirnig refers to its small size, strong family ethos, wonderful team spirit and “big ambitions for our girls” It’s a school for girls of all abilities; both its academic results and value-added performance is impressive.
Founded in 1902, it remains true to the progressive principles of its founder Julia Huxley, a teacher with pioneering ideas about the education of young women in Edwardian England. This isn’t an academic hothouse but rather a nurturing community where teaching is tailored to individual needs, which may be the student who needs to be stretched and challenged, or the girl who needs additional support. While the atmosphere here may be more relaxed than some other independent schools, it is still very ambitious and high performing.
It’s a school for girls with a ‘can do attitude’ who have as much interest in “editing the school magazine, running school council, building and racing sports cars and breaking school sports records” as they do studying for GCSEs and A Levels. It feels very much a school for girls who want to be leaders, not followers.
The focus here is very much on independent learning, creativity and problem solving. These skills are learnt while studying a broad and enriched curriculum that covers English, maths and sciences, French, Spanish, Latin, history, geography, religious studies, design technology, food, textiles, art, music, drama, PE and IT.
Prior’s Field says it doesn’t follow a one size fits all approach, and this can only work if the curriculum covers a wide range of interests, both academic and creative, traditional and modern. And it does. GCSE options include history, geography, RS, art, food and nutrition, dance, ICT, textiles, music, drama, design technology, PE and a second language. Girls are helped to navigate their way through this huge choice of subjects by their tutor and an individual staff mentor – and the school promises plenty of flexibility in timetabling to cater for numerous combinations of subjects. Students can also sign up for short-courses in subjects like Astronomy or World Literature, which change annually based on the interests of students and teachers.
There is more opportunity to specialise in the Sixth Form. A huge list of 22 A Levels includes new subjects including fine art, business studies, criminology, drama & theatre studies, economics, music technology, photography, product design, and psychology. Alternatively, students can opt for a Diploma in Food Science and Nutrition or a BTEC in Music Technology. Many students also study the Extended Project Qualification, and there’s a high uptake for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
There’s a sport for all ethos here, and the main sports taught are hockey, netball, swimming, gymnastics, dance, fitness, athletics, rounders, cricket and tennis. The school fields teams in netball, hockey, swimming, cross country and gymnastics, and there are several sports clubs and activities on offer throughout the week.
It’s all about the tennis here. There’s an elite tennis academy run by former Davis Cup captain for UAE, Jorge Munoz Martin, which offers a daily, flexible programme of tennis coaching (including sports physiology, fitness training and nutrition advice) to the most talented. There are also extra-curricular, paid-for tennis lessons, and
Facilities include a purpose-built sports hall, fitness room, tennis courts, swimming pool, athletics arena and all weather sports pitch.
The creative arts also take centre stage, with music, art and drama all being studied as part of the curriculum. There are clubs, concerts, art and culture trips, exhibitions and instrumental tuition. Performing, creative thinking and artistic expression are encouraged and celebrated – it’s part of what makes Prior’s Field girls so well-rounded and confident.
As a school with such variety within its curriculum, it’s not surprising to see a diverse range of activities being offered in its co-curricular programme. There are some truly brilliant clubs including the school’s own radio station, rock climbing, yoga, silversmithing, Mandarin and debating; yes, there really is something for everyone. Girls also take part in a various adventure trips, from kayaking and mountain-climbing to a summer trip to Prior’s Field’s partner school in Tanzania.
This is a school with a focus on added value; it is in the top 2% of all UK schools for value added at A Level, which marks the progress students make academically.
Turn to its results pages, and you’ll find more stats about becoming confident, resilient and happy, and participation in extra-curricular life, than you will for GCSE and A Level grades. It’s not that Prior’s Field isn’t proud of its academic achievements, it is. But it’s also a school that truly understands achievement is so much more than just academic success. As Prior’s Field says, “If you judge us by our excellent grades alone, you will not understand our ethos.”
2021 A Level results: 39% of grades were A*, 77% A* to B and there was a 100% pass rate.
Given the school’s academically non-selective entry process, these results are strong indicator of the value add here and how the school is helping its students to achieve their potential. The range of university courses and destinations is as diverse as the curriculum and school community.
Commenting on the 2021 results, Head Tracy Kirnig said:
“After a 24 month build-up more challenging than any Olympic Marathon our girls are safely over the finish line with results worthy of any Olympic podium. I am so proud of the resilience this year group have shown and know that every one of these excellent results are thoroughly deserved.”
Prior’s Field offers a flexible boarding programme, with a choice of full, weekly and tailored boarding. There are Junior and Senior Boarding Houses run by live-in staff, many with their own young families and pets. Sixth Formers have a purpose-built separate house with individual study bedrooms (en-suite bathrooms for Year 13), silent study area, pantry and two common rooms; there’s a great new loft area where you’ll find girls watching TV or doing a yoga class.
Scholarships for academic, sport and the arts are worth up to 20% of fees for either day or boarding students. Means-tested bursaries are also available and may be up to 100% of fees.
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