Cranleigh School ~ from culture to strength


Since its earliest days as the Surrey County School back in the 1860s, Cranleigh School has built a reputation for excellence. Expanding next year with the building of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, the school is still at its heart a local boarding school


Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2013

Since its earliest days as the Surrey County School back in the 1860s, Cranleigh School has built a reputation for excellence. Expanding next year with the building of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, the school is still at its heart a local boarding school with strong ties to Cranleigh village...

SUBSCRIBE to Surrey Life magazineBUY SL onlineDOWNLOAD the app   

What is it that makes Cranleigh School unique?Our all-round education ethos; the fact we are predominantly a ‘local boarding’ school with close family ties; and our co-educational Preparatory and Senior Schools, meaning siblings can be educated together and can benefit from the ‘Cranleigh 7-18’ model – an approach that enables talented pupils to progress at a pace consummate with their ability. So a Year 8 (Prep) pupil might find himself playing alongside a Year 11 (Senior) cellist. Also the fact that Cranleighans seem to become lifelong friends: a recent Old Cranleighan wedding had over 20 former pupils attending, 20 years after leaving. That pretty much sums Cranleigh up.

Tell us the most interesting story about the school?From Surrey Life readers’ perspective, probably that Cranleigh was the original Surrey County School, founded in 1865.

How about your ethos of an all-round education? How does that work?The belief that success outside the classroom translates directly into it. Academic studies are naturally central to our day; however, we all need fresh challenges, fresh air and fun, and none more so than young people. We have seen pupils underperforming in the classroom who then find their feet and forge ahead upon finding their niche – and confidence – in another arena.

Most Read

And your approach seems to have reaped some very good results...Undoubtedly. This year alone, 26 Prep School pupils gained scholarships to Cranleigh, Charterhouse, Eton, Radley, Wellington, Bradfield and Millfield; we’ve recently seen Cranleigh’s best ever results at A-Level and GCSE; nine pupils received Oxbridge offers; and 99% of pupils go to university, usually to their first choice.

How about extra-curricular activities?We are proud of our sport-for-all approach, with 34 Prep School teams each week and up to 400 senior pupils playing competitive Saturday sport. Cranleighans do sport most days: rugby, hockey, netball, squash, fives, basketball, tennis, riding, football, badminton, water polo, swimming, lacrosse, cross-country, canoeing and climbing. We are also proud of our successes: this term alone saw the Prep School’s rugby, girls’ hockey and football first teams unbeaten; national titles in riding; three senior girls’ hockey regional finals; and unprecedented county and national hockey selections. We’ve also had one of our best rugby seasons, and it’s gratifying to see Cranleighans pursue this passion upon leaving, with six currently playing Premiership rugby.

And the arts are also popular at Cranleigh too?The Music School is a central focus for many pupils, with an array of music ensembles. Top musicians play with a professional orchestra, and with the National Youth Orchestra or Choir. Budding actors can hone their acting (and play-writing) abilities in various house and school plays – indeed, Cranleigh Prep pupils performed at Guildford’s Electric Theatre in the annual Shakespeare Schools Festival, while others have joined the National Youth Theatre/technical crew. Our artists express themselves in drawing, painting, ceramics and textiles – and four Prep School pupils won prizes (out of 35,000 entries) in the recent national Portrait of Our Queen competition.

The facilities at Cranleigh sound as though they are pretty special...We certainly strive to give our pupils the best possible facilities within which to develop their full potential. Recent investments have included an academic centre dedicated to maths, languages and the sciences, three nationally declining subject areas; an indoor cricket centre for year-round training; a new Astroturf; and a new academic ‘eco-building’ at the Prep School. Having said that, an inspirational teacher, coach, director or musician can often make more difference to a pupil’s development than a building.

So how about any adventures further afield?Our outdoor education challenges pupils with everything from Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards to the gruelling Devizes-to-Westminster Canoe Race. We also broaden pupils’ horizons with international academic trips and expeditions (most recently to the Himalayas, Morocco and Zambia, where Cranleighans helped to build a school, while 30 Cranleigh Prep children are currently on an Adventure Club trip to South Africa). Such opportunities undoubtedly enhance the overall educational experience.

Describe the ‘average’ Cranleighan in three adjectives…Confident, big-hearted, inventive!

Who are Cranleigh School’s most famous alumni?There are many famous Old Cranleighans, including Alan Rusbridger (editor, The Guardian), Stuart Meaker (current Surrey and England cricket player), Julia Ormond (Hollywood actress), Derek Bourgeois (composer), Zane Sennett (Red Arrows pilot), Peter Gordon (Eagle Radio presenter), Andrew Roberts (historian, broadcaster) and David Westcott (GB/Olympic hockey captain).

And you’ve just announced the appointment of your next Headmaster; tell us more?Martin Reader will replace Guy Waller, who retires in September 2014 after 17 years’ outstanding service. Martin read English at Oxford, has taught at St Edward’s Oxford, Oundle and Reigate Grammar and is currently headmaster of Wellington School in Somerset. As such, he has extensive day, boarding and co-educational experience, and is keen to continue the Cranleigh tradition.

And you also have another exciting piece of news…?Yes, we have just signed an agreement to build Cranleigh Abu Dhabi. To be built across seven hectares, and designed to accommodate more than 1,600 students aged three to 18 years, it will become the largest school in the Emirate. It will sit in Saadiyat’s cultural epicentre, alongside the Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi museums – very apt given Cranleigh’s motto, Ex Cultu Robur (from culture comes strength).

How closely are you involved in the local community?Cranleigh has always been involved in the local community. We share many educational, musical and sporting links, and we provide assistance to local schools and community projects – for example, Cranleigh staff have maintained the Cranleigh Cricket Club square and outfield for the last three years, returning it to a standard suitable for high-quality cricket. Cranleigh facilities are used by St Joseph’s School, local sports clubs and primary schools. We also hope to build an artificial running track in the years ahead that will also be available for the local community.

Any other plans for the future?Cranleigh Prep School is 100 years old in 2013 and Cranleigh School is 150 years old in 2015. It is an exciting time, looking back at the things we have learned from the past, reflecting on the present and looking forward to all that the future holds for our pupils, staff and wider community.

Cranleigh School is a day and boarding co-educational school for pupils aged 7-18 at Horseshoe Lane, Cranleigh, Surrey GU6 8QQ. Tel: 01483 273666 (Senior) / 01483 542058 (Prep) or visit their websites at /

Comments powered by Disqus