Virtual Open Event
We were delighted to welcome prospective families 'virtually' to St John's on 23 June. Thank you to everyone who joined us for your interesting questions and your kind comments about the event. For anyone who was unable to join, we are pleased to share some of the information from the event here.
While a virtual event does not replicate the experience of visiting our happy, purposeful school community and meeting our pupils and staff, we hope to answer some of your questions and give an insight to life at St John’s.
Open Day Video
As part of our virtual introduction to St John’s, we have prepared a video to give you an overview of some key areas of school life. Our Open Day video includes:
- An introduction to St John’s from Rowena Cole, The Head
- A tour around our school
- Overview of sport from Gareth James, Director of Sport
- Overview of performing arts from Ollie White, Director of Performing Arts
- Introduction to boarding from Ashley Currie, Assistant Head (Pastoral)
The video is approximately 20 minutes in length and each section is bookmarked so you can skip to the next part should you wish to do so.
Meet the Team Q&A
We were delighted to host a live Q&A session as part of our virtual open event. It was such a busy hour that we were unable to answer every question during the live session, so we have compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions and also to some questions which we felt were particularly important to answer. Our speakers at this event included:
- Rowena Cole, The Head
- Rebecca Evans, Senior Deputy Head
- Richard Harvey, Head of Lower School
- Gareth James, Director of Sport
- Ollie White, Director of Performing Arts
Questions about St John's
What is the ethos of St John’s and what type of child would most enjoy their time here?
We believe that our pupils have limitless potential and watching them go on that journey to discover what they’re capable of - from when they first visit us until they leave as accomplished young adults - is one of the privileges of being part of the School. We encourage our pupils to be courageous and explain that they will never find the edges of their brilliance if they don’t push themselves. We know as adults that we sometimes make our greatest achievements when we attempt things we might not have felt confident about initially. To help our pupils be courageous, we have to create a support network that gives them the encouragement and safety net that allows them to be brave. We have fantastic teachers who can bring out the best in every child and our focus is on helping each child find their own particular dream and then supporting them to follow that pathway – whether they are an aspiring medic, dreaming of a career in the arts or working towards being a professional sportsperson. If they have the ability and determination, we have the team that can help them achieve it. Underpinning all of that, kindness is fundamental to everything we do at St John’s. We want our pupils to be decent human beings who look beyond themselves to seek ways to contribute to their communities and wider society; a sense of integrity and a strong moral compass is important to us. There is no one ‘type’ of child who is best suited to St John’s life. Whether a child is an introvert or extrovert, an all-rounder or someone who shines in a particular area, as long as they want to be part of school life then they will find they can carve their niche here.
What is your perspective on inclusion and diversity, especially with regards to ethnic diversity and social mobility?
This is obviously an incredibly important area and one that we have been paying attention to more than ever in recent years. We place great emphasis on the importance of inclusion and in making St John’s a diverse, welcoming community where everyone finds their place. We have undoubtedly made progress in recent years, particularly through engaging in proactive discussions with pupils, staff and parents who are black, mixed race, Asian or other minority ethnic groups, but we recognise there is still much to be done. We want pupils, staff and parents to know they are able to talk to us openly about anywhere they identify a problem or a way we can improve – by really listening and by acting on what we hear, we are determined that we will create a community that is genuinely inclusive. Rowena Cole talked to pupils recently on this topic and you can read more about what she said here.
What are the advantages of co-ed over single sex and vice versa?
There is a lot of debate about this but we believe that looking at the quality of teaching that a school provides is more important than considering the gender make-up of the class. A passionate teacher who is intuitive in the classroom will inspire pupils, no matter whether that is a room of boys, girls or both. Getting the most out of children is about knowing the children, responding to their needs and igniting their passion. We believe that a co-ed school creates the opportunity for great preparation for the world that they will go out into as young adults.
How is the School structured and what is the co-ed split?
We often describe St John’s as a day school with a boarding school heart. Every child belongs to a house and that pastoral structure is fundamental to getting to know every child and making them feel that they belong. The pastoral team of housemaster/mistress, tutor and Matron really get to know their pupils, understand their hopes and dreams and pick up any fears or concerns when they arise. Pupils joining at Lower Third (Year 7 11+), join Lower School for two years. From Fourth Form (Year 9 13+), all pupils move into a senior school house. The School is broadly evenly split between boys and girls, with a 50:50 split in the younger year groups.
Questions about Admissions
Will the admissions process change at all due to Covid-19?
We completely understand that there are concerns about this – both in terms of how the admissions process might work in the coming academic year and in terms of how well prepared prospective pupils will be. In terms of the overall timings and process, we hope that we will be able to run the process in the normal way. We assess children from over 130 different schools so we are used to dealing with a wide range of abilities, preparation and learning experiences. Our innate ability test cannot be taught for and is looking for natural potential. We have a lot of contact with our feeder schools and spend hours assessing all of the information available to us before making any decisions about offers. When we are in the forthcoming admissions cycle, we will be taking all of this into account and so, even if the process looks normal entirely from the outside, you can be assured that we won’t forget what a strange time these pupils have experienced. While we fervently hope it won’t be necessary to run a ‘virtual’ admissions process, should we need to do so, we have the systems and resources in place to make that possible. You can see reminders of the timings of the admissions process for each entry point here.
What is the difference between joining in Lower Third (Year 7 11+) and Fourth Form (Year 9 13+) and how many pupils join at each entry point?
We usually bring in four classes at 11+ and a further three classes at 13+. Over recent years, there is a trend towards pupils joining at 11+ so these numbers might change over time. No matter which year pupils arrive into – including new joiners to the Sixth Form - our induction and familiarisation process helps them to settle into life at St John’s. Joining Lower School at 11+ is an exciting new start for everyone, but new joiners at 13+ find it easy to settle in as everyone, including our own Lower School pupils, is entering a new phase of their education as a member of a senior school house so there is plenty of opportunity to form new friendships and become part of the community.
What are your thoughts on private tutoring in preparation for the entrance assessment?
We don’t encourage it. Our entry process looks for potential and we are skilled in forming rounded assessments of the prospective pupils we meet. Tutoring and intensive preparation do not necessarily help with this.
What are the timings for the entry process to St John’s?
You can find details of all the timings for our admissions process here.
Do you have a sibling policy?
We want the whole family here if we can – it works so well for our approach as a school where families are genuinely welcomed as a whole family unit. It is a real strength of St John’s. We would only not offer a place if we really thought it was the wrong place for that child.
Are ad hoc places ever available in other year groups?
Sometimes places do come up so, if you are interested in a place in a year group that is not one of the main entry points, please get in touch with our admissions team who will be able to talk to you about availability.
Questions about Pastoral and Boarding Life
How does the house system work at St John’s and what are the differences between houses at St John’s?
All pupils in Lower and Upper Third belong to Lower School. After that point, every pupil joins a house. The houses are a community within a community – creating a space in which pupils are really known and develop a deeper sense of belonging. It isn’t ‘Harry Potter’ and the houses don’t have distinct characteristics associated with them. However, their members do have a genuine sense of pride and belonging in their house and it forms the foundation of how we care for our pupils.
How does boarding work?
We want boarding at St John’s to suit modern family life. Approximately 200 pupils (out of a school roll of around 800) do some sort of flexi boarding, while some board all week. It is designed to work with your family commitments and what works can change throughout a pupil’s time at St John’s.
Do day pupils really feel part of a house?
Yes! Belonging to a house is central to how daily life operates at St John’s. Pupils return to their day rooms in house for breaks throughout the day and it is a home-from-home where they socialise, relax and spend time with friends.
Questions about Academic Matters
Do pupils belong to sets based on ability?
Teaching and learning at the heart of what we do and we combine academic rigour with creativity in a broad and varied curriculum. When pupils join at 11+ and 13+ pupils, they are only set for maths (where pace is important) and languages (where prior exposure and experience varies widely). In other subjects, there are not sets, but we spend a lot of time planning teaching groups that work well for all our pupils. This means they will be in groups where they can be stretched but can also learn at a pace that works for them. We introduced this approach three years ago and it has worked very effectively as pupils do not focus on which ‘set’ they are in but are taught in a group that allows them to work successfully. Most classes will be around 20 pupils. Our maximum class size is 24 but many will be smaller and A level groups are significantly smaller to allow for much more one to one work.
Which subjects are most popular, what are the key academic strengths of the School, and what do leavers study at higher education?
The short answer is that we are strong across the board. The subjects that are most popular changes every year as they are representative of that particular cohort and what they love and are enthusiastic about. Our leavers this year are looking at about 60% heading in a science/maths direction and 40% towards the arts but that split could reverse with another year group.
What sort of learning support is available to pupils?
We are very proud of the fact that our academic staff go above and beyond to provide additional support, whether that be in the form of subject clinics or any other additional assistance. Our excellent learning development department also supports pupils with a wide range of learning needs and does so very effectively. However, it is important to be clear on the level of support available here: we don’t have teaching assistants in classrooms and every pupil can access the curriculum independently. If you would like further information about this, please contact our admissions team who will put you in touch with our Learning Support Department.
Questions about Wider School Life
How inclusive is the sports programme?
Sport is an important part of school life and much-loved. All pupils have two games session per week, take part in co-curricular sports and can be involved in weekend fixtures. Had this year been ‘normal’, we would have fielded around 150 teams across 1400 fixtures. We play our major sports competitively but also compete in minor sports where possible. Recreational sports such as softball, dance, yoga and Pilates complement the competitive sports and we have outstanding facilities for training including our swimming pool, gym and studio. Inclusivity – and welcoming all abilities – is essential to our approach. Through our coaching and structural system, everyone is encouraged to be involved and to fulfil their potential whether that is in a sport they already love or something that they begin when they join us.
Do girls play cricket, football, rugby etc?
Yes! Girls cricket is one of the fasted growing sports in the world and it is no different at St John’s. Four years ago, we have nine cricket teams, this year would have had 21 if we had had a cricket season and much of this growth is driven by the girls. We have great cricket coaching and facilities to this is a much-loved sport here. It also isn’t just a distinction about ‘girls’ teams’ being created – had the season gone ahead, there would have been several girls on the U12 A team. Girls’ football and rugby teams also exist and are likely to grow.
Is Saturday sport compulsory?
It isn’t compulsory but it is strongly encouraged! We run a lot of teams – approximately 83% of the pupil body is engaged throughout the year – so whether a pupil is captaining an A team or scoring one fantastic try in an U12D team game, we want as many of them as possible to have the experience of representing St John’s. It is a hugely positive aspect of school life.
How inclusive is performing arts at St John’s?
We aim for performing arts to be fully inclusive and encourage pupils to get involved. We create pathways for pupils to progress through their involvement, for example, we have a Lower School Choir that feeds the Chapel Choir, which feeds the Schola Cantorum. Similarly, we have three string groups of different ability levels so pupils hone their skills and then move on. Very few ensembles are invitation only and we create numerous opportunities for variety such as rock groups, cabarets and plays. Part of our approach to encouraging involvement across all areas of the School, is that the Director of Performing Arts and other senior staff in the department, are involved with groups across the board so that younger or less experienced pupils always feel involved and that they are being guided by the whole team.
What clubs are offered at St John’s and what opportunities exist outside of the normal school week?
There is a huge variety of clubs and activities that vary each term – with more than 70 on offer each week. We have been asked about clubs such as dance, coding, robotics, chess and those are all available. We are always reviewing what is offered and will respond to pupils’ enthusiasm and interests wherever we can. Beyond these activities, we offer Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and CCF amongst many other opportunities for pupils to develop skills and try new things.
Questions about Transport and Logistics
We received a number of questions about transport to and from St John’s. Please see our transport page for detailed information about our current bus routes and other ways to travel to school. If you need any further information, do not hesitate to get in touch with our Transport Manager.
Where do pupils tend to come from (i.e. London versus local Surrey area)?
We draw from a wide catchment area around St John’s. Approximately 25% might come from SE London area, with the majority coming from a range of Surrey towns and villages. For more information about transport, please visit our transport page.
Does getting the bus cause problems for pupils who want to join after school clubs and activities?
Not at all. We have one bus departure time each day so everyone can do their clubs or activities before leaving. If they are not in a club on that day, they can do homework in school, so nobody has to rush off to get a bus and potentially miss out on activities.
Looking to the Future
We hope that the Autumn Term will bring us opportunities to welcome prospective families into St John's once again and we have a number of events currently in the calendar which you are welcome to book onto. We will stay in touch to keep you informed about the plans for these events and the admissions process.
If you have any further questions about admissions or any aspect of life at St John’s, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our admissions team via firstname.lastname@example.org.