Situated in the heart of Godalming, St Hilary’s School provides “an outstanding all round education”, equipping pupils not only with strong academic standards, but also the essential qualities and skills required beyond their time at the school.
“Each pupil’s individual talents and strengths are recognised and utilised, ensuring all exceed their full potential and beyond in a vibrant, busy, yet nurturing environment,” says Sarah.
Specialist teaching is introduced at an early age and the school is proud of the range of scholarships it secures. Extensive grounds and facilities provide infinite opportunities for learning and classrooms are well resourced and welcoming. Sarah tells us: “Small class sizes encourage independent learning, informed risk-taking and thinking ‘out of the box’. Ultimately we strive to ensure that all our pupils develop a real thirst for learning.”
Challenges in the sector
Like many independent schools, the main financial challenge is to maintain pupil numbers. “There is always demographic movement as families relocate into and out of the area and these are carefully monitored to help with cost control,”says Sarah.
Sarah explains that there are a number of good, strong schools, both independent and state, in the local area. This presents a challenge, but is also used to the school’s advantage by maximising opportunities to share good practices and resources wherever possible.
Reflecting on the forthcoming General Election, Sarah says that a potential change of government always brings challenges to the independent school sector and the school may have to adapt to any new requirements introduced to allow it to continue to justify its charitable status.
As with all independent schools, St Hilary’s is required to comply with the regulations of many governing institutions: the Independent Schools Inspectorate; the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools; HMRC; the Information Commissioner’s Office; and OFSTED.
Significant human resources are invested to ensure the school is compliant with the requirements of all these bodies and to ensure that it offers the best possible education for all its pupils.
Outside the classroom
Shipleys provides St Hilary’s with auditing services. This includes auditing the teachers’ pensions returns and for the first time recently completing a tax return on behalf of the school for HMRC.
“Shipleys supports our ethos of being part of the local Godalming community. They are experts in their field and always available with advice as necessary,” says Sarah.
“It is very important to us that we support and employ local businesses and this was a determining factor in our decision to appoint Shipleys when we put our auditing service out to tender a couple of years ago.”
Whenever possible, Sarah attends Shipleys’ monthly Business Breakfast Clubmeetings held at Shipleys’ Godalming office and finds them “a great way of networking with other local businesses”.She also attends the Shipleys annual budget briefing held in the Godalming office – “a quick and easy way to find out the most important factors affecting the school”.
This is an exciting time for St Hilary’s and with pupil numbers at a buoyant level the school is working with its Governors to plan the best strategy for the future, including plans to extend and enhance the communal spaces in the school.