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St George’s, Windsor Castle

More than just a chichi address, St George's is leading the charge in educational reform as the UK's first IB prep. It's a school with academic rigour, royal links and a place where kindness is king.

WHAT?/WHERE?

St George's School Windsor Windsor Casstle lawn pillared building trees and flag
Morning Ma’am… Does it get more fabulous than having the Queen as your next-door neighbour?

St George’s Windsor Castle is a co-ed school (ages 3-13) in the grounds of the Queen’s home. Lots of history and tradition to soak in, but beneath the surface is a progressive school leading the charge in educational reform – and it’s the first standalone International Baccalaureate Prep in the UK.

The school includes a Kindergarten, Pre-Prep and Prep, educating 330 boys and girls in buildings that ooze history. Set up in 1348 by Edward III to educate choristers, the school moved to its current location (an almshouse for Naval Knights) in 1892 and started taking non-singing students.

St George's Windsor choristers red and white gowns running up chapel steps
The voice… St George’s has an unbroken tradition of educating choristers that sing in the Chapel Choir.

Accessed via Datchet Road, the site is relatively compact, homely and ‘lived in’. Despite its chichi address, there’s nothing overtly shiny or polished about it, but it has an intellectual energy that I like. Rather handily, it’s also right opposite Windsor and Eton train station and there’s a pub right next door. Here for the important stuff.

FACILITIES

st George's Windsor Castle CRICKET

This is a town centre school so you would assume that space is something of a luxury. Although the buildings are tightly packed in at the foot of the castle walls, it does boast an indoor pool, sports hall, large grass play areas, multi-purpose hard court, a wooden adventure trail and an outdoor classroom.

st George's Windsor Castle pupil with chromebook and headphones

Academically there’s two modern science labs, a well-kitted out DT room, a very small cookery room, an ICT suite with touch screen computers and pupils use Chromebooks from Year 4. Oh and there’s a music recording facility with a mixing desk and iMacs to allow pupils to explore the technical side of musical production and editing.

St George's school windsor school football players playing fields

Where do they play matches? You have to see it to believe it, but basically it’s the Queen’s back garden – Home Park Private. Fancy. The school uses it for rugby, cricket, rounders, cross country, athletics fixtures, and tournaments, as well as for nature walks, outdoor learning and free time. A brand new, beautiful sports pavilion (design approved by Prince Charles and the late Duke of Edinburgh) now provides much better facilities and a kitchen to prepare match teas. To say visiting schools are impressed (and a little intimidated) is something of an understatement.

Mary poppins St George's Windsor Castle
Happy jazz handers… the school has great links with Eton College and their large musical productions are shown in Eton’s impressive theatre.

They also have assemblies (which parents can attend), speech days and special services at the world famous St George’s Chapel. It’s only a short walk to Eton College, where the children get to use its 400-seat Farrer Theatre for large productions – Mary Poppins brought the house down.

WHAT ELSE? 

St George's School Windsor Castle children playing string instruments
Sound of music… A love of music isn’t essential but it is infectious whether you play an instrument, sing or ‘have a go’.

You don’t have to be a musician or a singer to come here but, as Berkshire’s only choir school, it’s St George’s big calling card. The kids love to sing and the St George’s Choir is internationally renowned. It’s not a naff Glee vibe, but something that’s organically part of the fabric of the school.

If you can’t carry a tune, there’s no shortage of opportunities. The kids love getting their teeth stuck into the big enrichment projects and have covered British values and the environment in recent years. Plus there’s sporting tours abroad, trips to London’s Olympic park to cycle round the Velodrome, Wimbledon, Lord’s and masterclasses with professionals.

st George's Windsor Castle pupilS library

In a tech-obsessed world, I like the fact many of the after-school activities are gloriously lo-fi offering star-gazing, STG Seals (Bear Grylls stuff in water) sewing, fencing, junior medics, German games, DT and, yes, more music. Look, if coding and robotics are what your kids are into, ICT Club should hit the spot.

Windsor Castle is more than a location, it’s also an educational resource, and the school has regular access to the castle’s educational centre, unlocking the castle’s centuries of secrets.

ACADEMICS

st-georges-Windsor-Castle

St George’s achieves academic excellence. The new IB curriculum is brand new, so it’s hard to know right now what that means in terms of results. But the IB learner profile is an exciting path – encouraging a deeper understanding of the topics covered, creativity, global mindedness, inclusion, self-awareness and the ability to question everything. Personally I think it’s incredibly exciting but more importantly it feels relevant in preparing our children for the future.

st George's Windsor Castle SCIENCE

What about leavers destinations? Well, you’ll find Heathfield, Eton College, Harrow, Wellington College, Downe House, Benenden, Reading Blue Coat, St George’s Ascot, Bradfield College and St George’s Weybridge schools all on the list. If your child is in the choir they’re pretty much guaranteed a place into other highly regarded schools – last year choristers were snapped up and offered scholarships to Wellington College.

Pupils are awarded senior school scholarships here, but St George’s will no longer be publicising that info – confident that the success of the school rests on the whole community not just the top 1%. Some parents won’t like it, but it’s pretty refreshing and gives everyone the opportunity to shine.

THE HEAD

st George's Windsor Castle HEad William Goldsmith

Head William Goldsmith, 37, has been in the St George’s hot seat since January 2019. He came to St George’s Windsor Castle eager to find a better way of educating our children that was more relevant. Not for the sake of it, but to create an education framework fit for 21st Century life. He’s put his money where is mouth is by introducing the IB Primary Years and Pre Senior Programme and is the first UK prep to join Round Square – a global organisation of 250 progressive, forward-thinking schools with the same real world values – character, confidence and social responsibility.

He’s also got rid of heads of department to encourage departmental collaboration and collective responsibility. Likewise no more Head Boy or Head Girl. He wants opportunity to be available to the majority and not the minority.

st George's Windsor Castle HEad William Goldsmith ON BIKE WITH PUPILS

Will has also ditched the old house names (Rodney, Revenge, Vindictive and Victory – named after famous Royal Naval ships). They were used for hundreds of years, but who wants to be in a house called Vindictive? Instead, the houses are named after Windsor Castle’s towers. He has ambitious plans to bring positive change to the prep school sector by breaking the pattern of stress and anxiety children experience today. Putting wellbeing, social conscience, real-life problem-solving and critical thinking at the heart of their education.

It doesn’t stop there, the new St George’s Award (D of E with an entrepreneurial edge) works towards the Pioneer, Explorer and Trailblazer Awards, featuring an exhibition in Y6 and their own TedX Talk in Y8. Will 100% believes in these changes. Jump on board and enjoy the ride. Or don’t. Traditionalists will be quaking in their shoes. Everyone else will be buzzing with excitement. I’m firmly in camp progress, but it’s a huge shift and the school is at the beginning of its journey. So there will undoubtedly be a few bumps in the road.

QUIRKS

There isn’t another school in the country to be found in a castle *drops mic*. The kids are actually pretty casual about it, but parents will enjoy the bragging rights and buzz from speech days and school services that take place in the incredible St George’s Chapel. By virtue of its location, it has taught many royal children – Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, plus a handful of celebrity offspring.

St George's Windsor Castle Olive Black poodle

Wellbeing is a big deal here, and they have a new team member Olive – a beautiful black poodle. She’s a big hit with the children, who enjoy a cuddle with her when they having a bad day. Judging by the number of kids popping in to see Olive, they love lavishing her with attention regardless of their mood.

I loved the special ‘In/Out’ sign that subtly informs the children when the Queen’s home, so that they’re on their best behaviour when heading out to play matches. And you’re an avid watcher of Royal Weddings you will have heard the world-class St George’s choir perform at the ‘I dos’ of Harry and Meghan, Eugenie and Jack, Edward and Sophie, and Charles and Camilla.

LITTLIES

St George's Windsor Kindergarten and pre-prep children wearing policeman's helmet waving union jacks
‘Ello, ‘ello… Police officers get younger and younger

The IB philosophy gently starts in Kindergarten – the children were incredibly sweet and friendly with lots of indoor/outdoor learning. The classrooms are big, bright and creative, they have their own play area and head out into Home Park Private on nature walks and adventures as often as they can. That said, the intellectual ethos of the school permeates even at this early, with the pre-prep and kindergarten annual Nativity show, plus they all learn French and make good use of the school pool with weekly swimming lessons. Blimey! Get them in early, we say. And you can. St George’s has a Mother and Toddler group called Butterflies and Caterpillars.

WRAP AROUND CARE

St George's Windsor children playing monopoly after school

If you’re a chorister it’s a pretty demanding schedule, but for everyone else, the days are relatively short. Kindergarten starts at 8.30am and ends at 3pm (half days available); Reception-Y2, have a staggered finish to 3.30pm with Seniors kicking off at 8.15am and checking out at 3.55 pm although many children stay for after-school activities (there are over 80 to choose from), prep or Supper Club. There is, however, a Breakfast Club from 7.35am, schools opens at 8am and after-school care until 6.15pm depending on age. For parents dropping off and scrambling back for pick up, you know your kids are safe and it’s reassuring to have that safety net. Oh, and travel to and from school by minibus is an option – a godsend for juggling parents.

BOARDING

Whate sandy style bunk beds posters and blue carpet boarding house St George's Windsor Castle

Boarders can be found at the heart of the school, with 38 beds available for weekly and flexi sleepers – and it is incredibly popular. The Choristers are the only full boarders at St George’s. The rooms are large, homely and nicely decorated – each one has an individual stamp on it with a communal chill-out space. I was really impressed. Activities are laid on in the evenings so the kids can let off steam and hang out with their friends, staggered bedtimes and there’s a genuine atmosphere of kindness and respect.

FEES: Kindergarten & Reception £3,621 per term; Y1 £3,866 and Y2 £4,106; Prep Day Pupils Y3&4 £5,364 and Y5-8 £6,011 per term. There are whopping big bursaries for anyone in the Chapel Choir to cover half of the fee. Full boarding is £3,865 per term for a Chorister, weekly boarding is £7,463 per term and flexi is £40 per night.

WORD ON THE GROUND

There’s a lot of buzz about changes being made. The feedback on the new IB approach is overwhelmingly positive. Some parents need a bit of reassurance when it comes to senior schools and how they perceive the IB academic preparation. But the emphasis on tolerance, creativity, ambition, kindness, social responsibility and mindset, seem to be the school’s strength. St George’s Windsor Castle is rated super-highly.

School services St George's Chapel Windsor Castle

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Progressive families. If you want a modern education fit for the future, St George’s Windsor Castle would be a good fit. Lovers of music (or children of lovers of music!). Boys and girls who thrive on attention and are not afraid to challenge the status quo.

Not so good for: Sticklers for tradition and a common entrance curriculum walk away. Kids who are resolutely incurious or cynical about culture will struggle.

Dare to disagree: Feel free to have a nose. There is Senior Prep information evening (for Y6, Y7 and Y8 joiners) on Thu 27 Jan. The next whole school Open Days are Fri 18 Mar at 9.30am and Sat 21 May at 10.30am. Register your interest here.

St George’s School, Windsor Castle, Windsor SL4 1QF. T: 01753 865553

2 comments on “St George’s, Windsor Castle”

  • Vikki Gould February 28, 2019

    An amazing school with great teachers and in a beautiful setting. We are very happy with St George’s

    Reply
  • April Ashby February 25, 2019

    I transferred my daughter to St George’s Windsor Castle just over a year ago from a Prep School in Surrey where she had been bullied. She now loves going to school every day due to the care and attention of the teachers. The classes are small and she is able to ask if she has any problems. Overall, I am very pleased.

    Reply

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