Reigate St Mary's School
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Reigate St Mary's School
Reigate St Mary's Preparatory and Choir School
Reigate St Mary's Preparatory and Choir School - - 1040657.jpg
Main school buildings
Chart Lane

, ,
Coordinates51°14?08?N 0°11?50?W / 51.2356°N 0.1972°W / 51.2356; -0.1972Coordinates: 51°14?08?N 0°11?50?W / 51.2356°N 0.1972°W / 51.2356; -0.1972
TypeIndependent day school
Established1949; 72 years ago (1949)
FounderGodfrey Searle Choir Trust[1]
TrustRGS Foundation
HeadmasterMarcus Culverwell[2]
Staff73 (2020)[3]
Age range3-11
Enrolment337 (2016)[4]
AccreditationChoir Schools' Association
AffiliationIndependent Association of Prep Schools

Reigate St Mary's Preparatory and Choir School is a mixed independent prep and choir school in Reigate, Surrey, England.

The school was established in 1949 to serve as the choir school of St Mary's Church, Reigate, and still has that function. In 2003 it became affiliated to Reigate Grammar School and serves as its junior school, with some three-quarters of children leaving the school going on to RGS.[2]


St Mary's Church, Reigate

In 1918, Godfrey Searle, a Reigate stockbroker, established a fund to provide choral scholarships at Reigate Grammar School for the boy choristers of St Mary's Church. This arrangement came to an end as the result of the school becoming a non-fee-paying selective grammar school under the Education Act 1944, for boys who passed the Eleven-plus, with no provision for teaching junior boys.[5]

Reigate St Mary's School was founded in 1949 as a prep school for boys only,[6] with the initial purpose of educating the junior St Mary's choristers and recruiting new ones.[5] At the outset, the Rev. J. P. H. Hobson MA (Oxon) was appointed as headmaster,[7] and John Whitworth, a lay vicar and countertenor at Westminster Abbey, was employed to teach the boys music and singing.[8]

In its early days, boys were admitted to the school at the ages of eight or nine and left when they were about eleven or thirteen.[6] In 1950, the school was recognized as efficient by the Ministry of Education.[9] Hobson, also a magistrate, was a strict disciplinarian with a zero-tolerance policy towards swearing.[10] In 1961, Hobson married, and his wife joined him in a flat at the school. [11] Reigate St Mary's was noted as a successful English choir school in The Music Yearbook, 1973,[12] and in 1992 was recommended for its choral music in the Organists' Review.[13]

A new headmaster appointed in 1983, J. Anthony Hart, came from being a housemaster at Scarborough College.[14]

In 1998, the school was still for boys only, with an age range from five to thirteen, but with an attached Day Nursery for children between three and five.[15] In that year, a sports master at the school, Nick Drewett, killed himself shortly before he was due to appear in court charged with child abuse.[16] Another master had also been charged with him; they were subsequently acquitted. Drewett's death led to Crispin Blunt, member of parliament for Reigate, calling for anonymity for schoolteachers accused but not convicted of sexual misconduct.[17]

By 2004, the school was co-educational.[18] In 2012, the number of children was 290, of whom 190 were boys and 100 girls.[19] By 2016, the total had increased to 337, with 147 girls and 190 boys.[4]

In 2015, nineteen school-leavers won scholarships at Reigate Grammar School, Box Hill School, and Dunottar.[20]

School campus

Reigate St Mary's occupies a fifteen-acre campus of parkland and sports fields on Chart Lane, Reigate, on the outskirts of the historic town centre.[21]

Sunnyside, the oldest building

The three main buildings are Sunnyside, a Victorian house which belonged to Godfrey Searle, founder of the St Mary's Church Choir; Beech House, built about 2007, now the main classroom block, including a large sports hall; and Cedar House, with the kindergarten and the ICT rooms. A smaller science and arts building also contains the Year 6 classrooms. There is a dining hall and a separate building for the Green Shoots Nursery.[2]

A Garden of Remembrance commemorates choristers of St Mary's Church, Reigate, lost in both World Wars.[22]

Curriculum and character

The school provides a broad education, within a tradition of choral singing and Christian values.[19] There are specialist teaching facilities for music, ICT, and art, and an Early Years Foundation Stage centre for children up to the age of five.[4]

In the ICT classrooms, one suite uses Apple Mac computers and another PCs, and children begin to attend ICT lessons there while in the kindergarten. From Year 4, each pupil has an iPad.[2] The foreign languages taught are French, Spanish, and German.[23]

School sports are played during the day, and the school is divided into four houses, called Hobson, Malcolmson, Osmond, and Searle, identified by the colours green, blue, yellow, and red, respectively, which compete at rugby, soccer, field hockey, cricket, netball, athletics, and cross-country running.[24]

Most children at the school come from business and professional families in its locality and reflect the cultural diversity of the population.[4] In conjunction with the Independent Association of Prep Schools, the school has developed a programme called "Education for Social Responsibility". In October 2019, the headmaster commented to The Daily Telegraph "We've seen the strength of feeling among the younger generation, as it's their future we are jeopardising. The need for children to understand what it means to be socially responsible couldn't be more important."[25]

Most Year groups have two classes, but the school is still growing. In September 2020, it is planning to launch a third Year 3 class.[2][26]


Choristers are recruited up to the age of eleven.[27] The school has three choirs led by a Head of Choral Music and is a member of the Choir Schools' Association.[19] It is one of the few such schools not affiliated to a cathedral or college.[28] For a school to be a full member of the CSA, it must provide a choir that sings a minimum of four services a week in a particular cathedral, church, or chapel.[29]

In 2000, John Tobin was appointed as Master of Choristers and remained in post until 2014. In his time, the school choir made appearances at Westminster Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral, the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, and Arundel Cathedral. It also sang with Keith Urban, worked on feature film soundtracks, including Milk (2008), Astro Boy (2009),[30] and Angels & Demons (2009), and was featured on the soundtrack of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).[31] The school choristers also sang two tracks on Michael W. Smith's album It's a Wonderful Christmas (2007) [32] and in the recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Love Never Dies (2010).[33]

In 2016, pupil standards in choral music at Reigate St Mary's were found on inspection to be "exceptional".[4] The school choir was regularly performing in local and national events, including singing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[34][35]

The singer Mike Christie began his musical career by winning a choral scholarship to the school.[36]

The school's archives contain letters written to Godfrey Searle, its founder, by former St Mary's choir boys serving overseas in the First World War.[37]

School day

The formal school day runs from 8:25 am to 3:30 pm, but children can arrive earlier for breakfast at 7:30 am, and there is an "Extended Day" programme until 6 pm, including a hot meal in the Dining Room at 5 pm.[38] "Wraparound" all-day childcare is available all round the year, apart from four weeks in the summer holiday period.[39]

Extracurricular activities

Many children play a musical instrument. In 2016, pupils were playing chess for the county team.[4]

The school has an indoor heated swimming pool, and additional sports include archery, fencing, and benchball.[40]

In 2017, the school organised a four-kilometre Hope Walk around Reigate to raise awareness of suicides among young people.[41] In the same year, a team from the school called Razor Sharp Minds won the regional final of the Lego League Challenge.[42][43] In 2018, Year 5 children carried out a project which made the school's nature-reserve area more bee and butterfly friendly, upgrading it to a standard for children from other schools to visit. In October, this won the London area competition of the national Make a Difference Challenge.[44]


An Independent Schools Inspectorate report published in 2016 reported that children at the school had "highly developed numeracy skills" and that problem-solving was commonplace, especially in maths. Pupils showed high levels of independent learning and had good literacy skills, but writing ability was less developed, with limited opportunities for extended written work. Children had "strong thinking skills", asked probing questions, had good scientific understanding and excellent ability with ICT, were creative and imaginative in artwork, and achieved excellent results in external exams. They also had good physical development and sporting skills, thanks to high-quality sports coaching. School teams had done well in netball, rugby, and the biathlon, with five children winning places in county and national teams in karate and swimming, while others had been selected for training at major football academies.[4]


In 2020, school fees were £1,110 a term in Green Shoots, £1,850 in the kindergarten, £4,120 in Reception, Year 1, and Year 2, and £5,100 in the later years.[45] Choral scholarships are provided by the Godfrey Searle Choir Trust,[19] a charitable body formerly known as the Reigate St Mary's Choir.[1]

Notable former pupils

Notable staff

List of headmasters


  1. ^ a b The Godfrey Searle Choir Trust, formerly known as the Reigate St Mary's Choir: An Abridged History (Reigate: Godfrey Searle Choir Trust, 1986), p. 4
  2. ^ a b c d e f Reigate St Mary's review at, accessed 15 June 2020; and see Hero Brown at The Good Web Guide, December 2018, accessed 23 June 2020
  3. ^ Teaching Staff at, accessed 19 June 2020
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Inspection-Report Dec 2015 at (linked from the Reigate St Mary's Preparatory School page at Independent Schools Inspectorate), both accessed 11 June 2020
  5. ^ a b Alan Mould, The English Chorister: A History (Hambledon Continuum, 2007), pp. 220-221
  6. ^ a b "Reigate St. Mary's Preparatory School" in Surrey Mirror, Friday 26 August 1949, p. 6
  7. ^ a b "HOBSON, John Philip Hilary" in Crockford's Clerical Directory: A Reference Book of the Clergy of the Church of England and of Other Churches in Communion with the See of Canterbury, Volumes 87-88 (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 473: "HOBSON, John Philip Hilary. b 20. Keble Coll Ox BA 42, MA 46. Offic Dio Edin 46-50; Hd Master St Mary's Sch Reigate from 50: Publ Pr Dio Swark from 50; Perm to Offic Dio Chich from 56. St Mary's School, Reigate, (Reigate 44880)"
  8. ^ a b Garry Humphreys, "John Whitworth: Celebrated countertenor", in The Independent, 15 September 2013, accessed 20 June 2020
  9. ^ "Reigate St. Mary's Preparatory School" in Surrey Mirror, Friday 7 July 1950, p. 8
  10. ^ Neil Powell, "Minding Our Language" in PN Review 205, vol. 38, number 5 (May-June 2012)
  11. ^ "HOBSON John P H / STEVEN / Tonbridge 5b 2431: STEVEN Evelyn J / HOBSON / Tonbridge 5b 2431" in General Index to Marriages in England and Wales, 1961; Electoral Register for Reigate Constituency - Central (No 1) Polling District (1962), Chart Lane, Flat 1, St Mary's School at, accessed 26 June 2020 (subscription required)
  12. ^ The Music Yearbook, Vol. 2 (Macmillan, 1973), p. 653
  13. ^ "Choral Music" in Organists' Review, vols. 76-78, issue 305 (Incorporated Association of Organists, 1992), p. 236
  14. ^ a b "HART, John Anthony, b. 3 Mar. 1938" in Ernest Kay, ed., International Who's Who in Education, Vol. 3 (1987), p. 249
  15. ^ "Larkspur Day Nursery" in Crawley News (Sussex, England), Wednesday 28 October 1998, p. 26
  16. ^ Suicide verdict on teacher The Independent, Friday 15 May 1998, accessed 20 June 2020
  17. ^ Hansard, House of Commons debate 30 March 1999,, accessed 6 December 2020
  18. ^ a b The Independent Schools Guide 2004-2005: A Fully Comprehensive Directory (Gabbitas Educational Consultants, 2004), p. 166
  19. ^ a b c d Independent Schools Yearbook 2012-2013 (A. & C. Black, 20 June 2013 ISBN 9781408181188), p. 1054
  20. ^ David Grantham, Scholarship success for Reigate St Mary's, at, 16 April 2015, accessed 12 June 2020
  21. ^ Which School? (Truman & Knightley Educational Trust, 1987), p. 136
  22. ^ Reigate St Mary's Remembers Choristers Lost in the World Wars at, accessed 21 June 2020
  23. ^ Reigate St Mary's Preparatory and Choir School at, accessed 21 June 2020
  24. ^ Welcome A Parent's Guide to life at Reigate St Mary's 2015-16 at, accessed 19 June 2020
  25. ^ Helena Pozniak, How can you avoid children bunking off school to protest? Put activism on the curriculum, in The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2019, accessed 20 June 2020
  26. ^ Dylan Wiggan, The ingredients for academic success at Reigate St Mary's, Surrey Live at, 30 January 2020, accessed 12 June 2020
  27. ^ Reigate St Mary's Preparatory and Choir School,, accessed 15 June 2020
  28. ^ School and Cathedral list at, accessed 20 June 2020
  29. ^ Peter Kingston, Reaching Out (2010) at, accessed 11 June 2020
  30. ^ John Tobin at, accessed 21 June 2020
  31. ^ Reigate - Choir gets big screen break, TES editorial, 12 March 2010, accessed 21 June 2020
  32. ^ It's a Wonderful Christmas at AllMusic, accessed 20 June 2020
  33. ^ Love Never Dies at AllMusic, accessed 20 June 2020
  34. ^ Inspection Report Dec 2015 at, paragraph 3.5, accessed 11 June 2020
  35. ^ "Reigate students sing at the Rugby World Cup welcome ceremony",, 23 September 2015, accessed 19 June 2020
  36. ^ a b Review Mike Christie 10 Years On at, accessed 12 June 2020
  37. ^ Sarah George, "Fascinating First World War letters unearthed from a Reigate school's archives describe soldiers preparations for war", Surrey Live, 14 November 2017, accessed 25 June 2020
  38. ^ Wrap Around Care at, accessed 12 June 2020
  39. ^ Reigate St Mary's Prep and Choir School (RSM) at, accessed 15 June 2020
  40. ^ Reigate St Mary's at, accessed 12 June 2020
  41. ^ Les Steed, "Reigate schools organise walk to raise awareness of suicides among young people", Surrey Live, 9 October 2017, accessed 25 June 2020
  42. ^ "Reigate St Mary's win LEGO League Regional Final", Surrey Life, 10 February 2017, accessed 25 June 2020
  43. ^ Study International Staff, "LEGO robot building day engages students with STEM subjects", Study International, 16 January 2018, accessed 25 June 2020
  44. ^ "Reigate pupils do their bit to help the environment", Surrey Life, 30 October 2018, accessed 25 June 2020
  45. ^ Reigate St Mary's School at
  46. ^ John O'Mahony, "Worlds of his own" in The Guardian, 20 April 2001, p. 18
  47. ^ Tom Chilton at, accessed 11 June 2020
  48. ^ "HOBSON John Philip Hilary of 19 Arnhem Wy Woodhall Spa Lincs died 21 January 1993" in Probate Calendar for England and Wales, 1993, Grid D05, at, accessed 26 June 2020
  49. ^ "Fully entitled?" in The Times, 16 November 1984, p. 17; Which School? (Truman & Knightley Educational Trust, 1988), p. 136; British Music Education Yearbook (Rhinegold Publishing, 1998), p. 197
  50. ^ Rhinegold Guide to Music Education (Rhinegold, 2005), p. 87

External links

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