Why St George’s School Windsor Castle Is Forward Thinking


Head William Goldsmith explains why St George’s School Windsor Castle is always looking ahead, from working towards being recognised as an IB World School to partnering with Round Square

Can you give us a potted history of St George’s School Windsor Castle…

St George’s School Windsor Castle is one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom, dating back to 1348 when the College of St George was founded by King Edward III. Initially founded with the sole purpose of educating the choristers of the now-world-famous St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, the school moved to its current site in 1893 and steadily began to expand. First with the admittance of non-chorister boys, then during the mid-1990s to also welcome girls.

While we remain true today to one of our core purposes as a choir school, we now offer an unrivalled, contemporary education to around 350 girls and boys aged 3-13 in a flourishing day and boarding community. The school remains very proud of its history and connection with the College of St George and Windsor Castle. Both the school and the extensive playing fields are on crown land and we were extremely privileged to have had Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II as our patron.

St George S School Windsor Castle Head William Goldsmith O A
St George’s School Windsor Castle Head, William Goldsmith

How would you sum up what the school offers today?

An education firmly focused on the future. All of the world’s leading minds in education and industry are in agreement that the needs of tomorrow require a very different approach to the educational norms of today. From the World Economic Forum’s Schools for the Future report in 2020 to the very recent Times Education Commission’s 12-Point Plan for Education, there is broad acknowledgement that there needs to be a dramatic shift away from the current narrow focus on individual subjects and ‘teaching to the test’, towards developing a much broader range of knowledge and skills, while also reducing the extreme pressure placed on today’s children by a relentless assessment framework. From creative problem-solving abilities, international mindedness, entrepreneurialism, resilience and the sustained curiosity to question the surrounding world, life in the future is going to require a very different mindset. 

At St George’s we are actively taking steps to be at the forefront of this reform. By combining a pioneering new International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum with membership of the global Round Square network and a school-wide approach which prioritises mental wellbeing, we pride ourselves on nurturing children to be kind, resilient, inquisitive, internationally-minded and, as we call it, ‘Real World Ready’. As the first standalone prep school in the UK on track to become an IB World School, we are excited to be able to prove the value of our innovative new approach.

It really is an exciting fusion of heritage and modernity, perhaps most aptly summed up by our announcement back in April that two of our female students had joined the choir of St George’s Chapel, marking the first time girl choristers had been admitted to the choir in its 674-year history.

How long have you been Head for now and what originally attracted you to the role?

The main attraction when I joined back in January 2019 was the potential to create something really special. A school steeped in history, but with the strong desire to blaze a trail for the 21st century.  The governors, staff and parent community have fully embraced my vision and the school as a whole has really been energised by the journey we are on.The location was also obviously rather a plus!  

How special is the school’s location?

The location of the school is incredibly special. With our very own set of steps up to Windsor Castle and our playing fields located inside the castle’s private grounds, there really is nothing like it anywhere else in the country, possibly even the world!

The castle provides us with an incredible resource for learning, as well as an idyllic backdrop for sports fixtures, outdoor learning and nature walks. 

It is highly unusual that we can offer this sense of freedom whilst also being located right in the heart of town; something which definitely has an appeal of its own, particularly for our more senior boarders.

St George S School Windsor Castle Cricket
The school’s setting is quite something

The age range, 3-13, is a key time for a child’s development. Is it a privilege to help introduce a love for learning?

Children are born with an innate sense of curiosity, an insatiable thirst for knowledge and they are filled with an incredible sense of awe and wonder for the world around them. It is a huge privilege to be able to indulge this desire to acquire knowledge and develop it into a lifelong love of learning. 

Far too often a focus on assessment and rigid curriculum frameworks over time dampen a child’s curiosity and diminish their creativity. By gently introducing our International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme as early as Kindergarten, students at St George’s are actively encouraged instead to question, explore and to learn about themselves, others, and the world around them.  

Each day in our early years setting is packed with purposeful play and the thrill of discovering new things, and we respond to the children’s enthusiasm by tailoring our approach to suit their needs. As the students then move through the school, our cohesive learner journey progressively builds upon these core skills to develop rounded individuals, capable of facing the world ahead.

What boarding opportunities do you offer?

Our boarding house is located right in the heart of the school and provides a welcoming and inclusive term time home for up to 44 weekly and flexi-boarders from Year 4 upwards. Having undergone something of a transformation over the past six months, with a fantastic – and quite Instagram-worthy – new boarder’s kitchen and common room, plus the first phase of a complete refiguration and refurbishment of the dorms, the space is now even more inviting and homely. It’s little surprise that it’s very rare for a bed to go empty!

While we have a number of weekly boarders, including the choristers of St George’s Chapel, we’re also now seeing sleepovers, where students elect to stay for individual nights of the week, becoming increasingly popular. Boarding provides an ideal opportunity to develop valuable life skills such as independence, collaboration and the ability to live together as a community. Sleepovers provide the ideal first glimpse into life as a boarder within a safe and familiar environment, perfect to test the water for those looking to board full time in senior school. 

What would we see in a typical classroom?

Without wishing to sound clichéd, there is no such thing as a typical classroom. From toasting marshmallows in our purpose-built outdoor learning facility, going on nature walks in the castle grounds, scuba diving in our indoor pool, or taking part in a promenade drama performance, our students have extremely wide-ranging opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Regardless of location, you can always see happy, inquisitive and creative learners, working with impassioned and inspirational teachers. Essentially, the school’s values of kindness, honesty and courage in action.  

St George S School Windsor Castle Eyfs
They develop pupils in and out of the classroom

How important are opportunities outside of the classroom to you?

Learning outside the classroom is incredibly important. So much so that this summer we appointed our first Learning Outside of the Classroom Coordinator. This will allow us to formalise all of the amazing work already going on across the school to get the very best out of our incredible surroundings, as well as introduce new initiatives such as a fully-fledged Forest School experience.  

We also already have a thriving co-curricular programme at St George’s with over 80 activities across the year, ranging from water polo to astronomy, film making and Eco Club. We are proud that this breadth of offering enables our students to try new things and find and develop their own individual passions, and we are always thrilled to hear of our students going on to continue the pursuits they took up whilst at the school. Just over the summer, we’ve had news of elite level success in rowing, fencing and weightlifting to name but a few!

One of the other key ways we try to broaden the horizons of our students is through our partnership with Round Square. As the first standalone prep school in the country to join this network, it provides us with unrivalled opportunities to partner with schools across the globe, whether through interactive lessons, class projects or exchanges. This opens up a world of different perspectives and cultures, and ignites a spirit of adventure among our students. We are even in discussions to potentially host the organisation’s global conference in autumn 2023!

What else do you believe makes you stand out?

In addition to our pioneering curriculum, focus on student wellbeing and iconic location, I believe one of our key points of difference is our Year 7 and 8 Senior Prep experience. The period between the ages of 11 and 13 is a great time of development for a young person’s evolution of character and academic maturity.  It is a time when a child craves independence and can begin to make more advanced decisions. It is also a time when a child needs the freedom to explore and express themselves with the cushion to make mistakes and learn from these. With the majority of prep schools finishing at age 11, it is often a considerable leap from the relative comfort of a small familiar prep school into a bigger and often more rigidly structured senior school environment. As with all transitions, some students handle this with aplomb, others take far longer to adjust. 

Our Senior Prep for students from 11-13 provides the perfect transition between the two settings. With a dedicated building on the same school site, which offers a more grown-up feel, and a bespoke Pre-Senior Baccalaureate (PSB) curriculum, our students flourish in a small and nurturing, yet focused and academically ambitious environment. 

Alongside engaging in deeper learning which develops knowledge and core skills, the students enjoy a range of opportunities to develop their character, for example through public speaking and adopting mentoring responsibilities, all of which help to develop the resilience and self-belief to confidently move on to senior school after Year 8.

The new school year is here. What are you looking forward to most?

There is always so much to look forward to with the start of a new term! In the immediate term, seeing our regular boarders enjoying their newly refurbished boarding house and our wider student body reuniting with friends after the summer break has been a joy to behold. 

Longer term, it is all about continuing on our journey to provide an unrivalled, future-focused education, delivering the very best outcomes for every student who comes through our doors. We are continuing on the path to full accreditation as an IB World School, as well as pursuing membership of the Green Schools initiative and the Rainbow Flag award. We have also just launched a school bus service with routes from both Maidenhead and Gerrards Cross to make the school even more accessible to the wider community.

My message to staff at the start of this term was that we achieved an incredible amount last year, of which we should feel rightly proud. We now need to build on this momentum and remain restless in our desire to continue moving forwards.


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