Prior's Field School
Prior's Field is an independent girls' boarding and day school in Guildford, Surrey in the south-east of England. It is set in 23 acres of parkland, 34 miles south-west of London and adjacent to the A3, which runs between the capital and the south coast.
The school was founded in 1902 with seven pupils. Today 457 pupils aged 11 to 18 attend Prior's Field, with a third of UK and foreign students boarding on a full, weekly or flexible basis. The Headteacher is Mrs Tracy Kirnig, who joined in 2015 from Caterham School, Surrey and is the school's 11th head.
In its most recent report, the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) awarded Prior's Field its top rating – excellent – across all categories of inspection, including quality of achievement, teaching, pastoral care, boarding and links with parents. Prior's Field pupils typically take 9 GCSEs in Year 11 and have a choice of 27 A-levels in the Sixth Form. In 2015, at A-level, 37 per cent of girls achieved A*–A grades, 85 per cent A*–C, and the pass rate was 100 per cent. At GCSE, 55 per cent gained A*–A grades, 98% A*–C, and the pass rate was again 100 per cent. Students participate in over 50 termly clubs, including silversmithing, philosophy, riding and Greenpower engineering. A highly supportive university application process ensures that all girls move to higher education. All gained first-choice places in 2012, the majority at Russell Group universities.
Prior's Field School opened on 23 January 1902. It was founded by Julia Huxley, who was the mother of Julian Huxley and Aldous Huxley, niece of the poet Matthew Arnold and granddaughter of Dr Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, immortalised in the novel Tom Brown's Schooldays. The Huxley Family is interesting historically for achievements across the fields of science, medicine, literature and education. Julian Huxley became a biologist, the first Director of UNESCO and a founder member of the World Wildlife Fund. Aldous Huxley was the author of Brave New World (1932). W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Lewis Carroll were family friends. The school motto, "We live by Admiration, Hope and Love," is from The Excursion by William Wordsworth.
Starting with a five-acre (2 ha) plot and a moderately sized house designed by Charles Voysey, Julia Huxley opened her school with one boarder, five day girls, a wire-haired terrier and her 7 1⁄2-year-old son, Aldous.
Julia Huxley was married to Leonard Huxley, a biographer and writer. She died in 1908 at the age of 46, after only six years as Headmistress, and was succeeded by Mrs Ethel Burton-Brown, who was Head from 1908 to 1927. The school magazine first appeared in June 1908, by which time there were 85 pupils and 86 Old Girls.
Prior's Field, originally called Prior's Garth, was designed by prominent English architect Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941) in the Arts and Crafts style and built in 1900. It is Grade II listed.
Many of Voysey's original features – stylised keyholes, door handles, air vents, and fireplaces – can still be seen in the school today, for instance in the Oak Hall, the Senior Common Room and the Bursary offices. The additions to the original house – formerly known as Private Side – were designed by Voysey's pupil, Tom Muntzer.
Garden inspired by Gertrude Jekyll
The design of Prior's Field's rose garden was designed by Leonard Huxley in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll. It includes herbaceous borders, dry Bargate stone walls, a dipping pond and rock garden. In the early years, the care of the gardens was in the hands of lady gardeners trained at Swanley Horticultural College.
Prior's Field Centenary and 110th Anniversary
To mark the school's centenary in 2002, a £1.2 million sports hall was built. Designed in the style of Voysey and named the Centenary Sports Hall, it was opened by Sir Andrew Huxley, a Nobel prize-winner and younger son of Leonard Huxley by his second marriage to Rosalind Bruce.
The 110th anniversary of Prior's Field's foundation was marked in 2012 by a service in Guildford Cathedral, construction of an all-weather sports pitch opened by GB Hockey Player and Olympian Crista Cullen, and the annual Huxley Lecture in memory of the school's founder, delivered by Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE in November.
In September 2013, Dame Diana Rigg opened a new three-storey teaching centre, siting the Creative Arts subjects in one area, providing six additional classrooms, a new school entrance and state-of-the-art facilities for maths and modern languages.
- Enid Bagnold, playwright and author of works including The Chalk Garden and National Velvet and great-grandmother of Samantha Cameron, wife of Prime Minister David Cameron.
- Thetis Blacker, singer and artist.
- Jill Bennett, actress
- Isabelle Duncan, women's cricketer and author of Skirting the Boundary
- Alex Evans, actress
- Victoria Hamilton, actress
- Heather Joan Harvey, Treasurer of the Liberal Party
- Freda Utley, writer and activist
- Mary Warnock, Baroness Warnock, crossbench peer
- Margaret Yorke, crime writer who received the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 1999
The school also has a Sherlock Holmes connection: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter, Mary, was one of its earliest pupils.
The main entry ages for Prior's Field are 11+, 13+ and 16+. Girls attend a Preview Day in November, when they undertake some informal tests and activities, and then sit an Entrance Exam the following January. At 16+, entrance is dependent on GCSE results and the outcome of an interview.
Fees, scholarships and bursaries
As at September 2015, day fees are £16,665, weekly boarding fees £26,850 and full boarding fees £28,065 per annum.
Means-tested bursaries are available at all points of entry, including Sixth Form academic bursaries for day places, and may be up to 100% of fees.
Each year, a number of Prior's Field scholarships are awarded for entry at 11+, 13+ and 16+ for academic promise as well as in the areas of art, drama, music or sport.
- "The ISI's March 2011 Inspection Report on Prior's Field". isi.net.
- Prior's Field School - A Century Remembered 1902-2002 by Margaret Elliott, published by Prior's Field School Trust Ltd, ISBN 978-0-9541195-0-8
- "The History of PFS | Prior's Field School". Priorsfieldschool.com. 1902-01-23. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Schools". The Good Schools Guide. Retrieved 2012-05-07.