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Notre Dame in Cobham – a stately Surrey school

PUBLISHED: 20:45 09 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013

Notre Dame in Cobham – a stately Surrey school

Notre Dame in Cobham – a stately Surrey school

Set in 17 acres of beautiful parkland, with a stunning Georgian building at its heart, Notre Dame in Cobham looks more like a stately home than a school – and with first class exam results, it's no wonder that it attracts superstar parents


Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2012

Set in 17 acres of beautiful parkland, with a stunning Georgian building at its heart, Notre Dame in Cobham looks more like a stately home than a school and with first class exam results as well, its no wonder that it attracts superstar parents. Here, the two head teachers, David Plummer (Prep School) and Bridget Williams (Senior School), tell us more about this inspiring place

When was the school founded?
BW: The school opened in Cobham in 1937, having moved out of Tollington Park in London, though we are part of a worldwide foundation that began in Bordeaux in 1607. The Company of Mary Our Lady is the oldest recognised order for the teaching of girls in the world.

Have things changed much?
DP: In some respects, many things remain unchanged. Set in 17 acres of unspoilt parkland with Burwood House, a Georgian building retaining many original features, it really doesnt feel like a school as its very much like a stately home.

However, Notre Dame has now grown to 700 pupils and in the last decade has seen the completion of a ten-year development programme, which has resulted in massive investment in science, technology and library facilities.

In addition, the school has totally refurbished its Bluebelles Nursery building in preparation for taking pupils from the age of two in the summer term.

Finally, following an ambitious project involving the whole school community, we have just opened a 3.4 million theatre, named after the great philosopher Montaigne. Every year group and the wider community are now able to share in this fantastic new facility.

What do you most enjoy about being based in Cobham?
DP: It is a beautiful Surrey town with many attractions. Notre Dame is conveniently situated between Seven Hills Road and Cobham, so ease of access with large car parks for drop-off/pick-up is essential. Although in a rural setting, with the River Mole bordering the grounds, the school can be easily accessed from Weybridge, Esher and the A3.

What is the key to producing well-rounded individuals?
DP: To adhere to gospel values such as respect, honesty, forgiveness, kindness, patience and love, as well as offering our girls opportunities to develop in all ways with responsibility at all ages.

How do you achieve this?
BW: Positive role models are provided by older girls who take on leadership roles setting the standard for the younger ones. We also have successful systems in place for welcoming new pupils including peer mentoring and big sister schemes for all girls. In addition, girls are praised and reminded about desirable behaviour by staff who are fully committed to the ethos of the school and encourage the development of a clear moral code.

Who are your best-known alumni?
DP: The actress Ruth Wilson, best known for playing the title role of Jane Eyre, and Toni & Guys Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck. The school has been the first choice for many well-known people, including educating the daughters of sporting legends Geoff Hurst, Ian Walker and John Collins; and entertainers and media celebrities Errol Brown, Bobby Davro, Mike Yarwood, Chris Tarrant and Mick Hucknell, among others.

Do you offer any bursaries at all?
BW: The school has always offered bursaries for open access to families of differing means. Scholarships are also awarded for entry into Year 7 and the Sixth Form.

What are your ambitions for the schools future?
BW: To maintain the outstanding academic results achieved by the students at both GCSE and A-Level. In 2011, almost 90% of A-Level exam passes were at A*-C grades. In these most competitive times, when universities are demanding higher than ever A2 entry level grades for courses, the majority of Notre Dame Sixth Form students gained admission to their first choice of university. Also, 10% were successful in gaining places at Oxford and over half the year group took up places at the prestigious Russell Group of Universities.

In terms of GCSE results, the girls achieved a 100% pass rate in five or more at A*-C grades, a quarter of all subject grades achieved were A* and 83% were A*, A or B grades. Notre Dame girls achieve academically beyond expectation.

How will you maintain this?
BW: By challenging and motivating the students to achieve the highest of standards in all spheres of school life, including academic endeavour, through inspirational teaching, delivered by highly qualified professionals in a caring and loving environment.

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