History of Surbiton High

Friday 25 January 2019 marks the 135th anniversary of Surbiton High School. The School opened with 11 girls and the aim of providing access to ‘a superior education for girls along the guiding principles of the Church of England’*.

As a founder member of the Church Schools Company, Archdeacon Charles Burney was instrumental in ensuring Surbiton High School was the first School opened under the Church Schools Company (now known as United Learning). The first Head of the School was Miss Mary Amelia Bennett, who was one of the first women to graduate from Girton College, Cambridge where she read Classics. The School expanded quickly within the first year, under her headship, to see over 91 girls in attendance. The School had ‘an ambitious curriculum for a small School. . . if that was not enough to satisfy parents, extras were offered in the form of instrumental music, solo singing and special drawing and water colours to name but a few’*. Surbiton High School’s early Motto was ‘be good sweet maid and let who will be clever’. However, most parents expected more than their daughter being helped to get a husband through their education.

One of the founding principles of the School was that Church Schools built a mutually beneficial relationship with local churches and, as such, Surbiton High School is proud to retain strong links with St Andrew’s and St Mark’s Churches.

The second Headmistress, Miss Nixon Smith (1886-1898) was anxious to establish an Old Girls’ Association to ensure former pupils could stay in touch. She was also eager to establish Surbiton High School as a pioneering modern teaching practice at the time. Miss Nixon Smith allowed the School to employ modern, experimental methods of teaching Music and Mathematics; an approach to education and teaching that is embedded within the School today.

The School’s charitable endeavours started very early on in the School’s life, with Miss Nixon Smith establishing links with Lambeth and the Universities Mission to Central Africa. Surbiton girls were known to subscribe pennies weekly to these charities. This long-standing tradition is one we are most proud of today, with the School supporting over 15 charities and raising in the region of £50,000 per annum.

The School soon expanded to provide separate buildings for Junior and Senior girls and expanded further in 1987 to incorporate Arundel House Boys’ School. The School expanded further in 2014 with the purchase of Mary Bennett House, and then with the purchase of Charles Burney House in 2017, opened by Tim Henman OBE.

Surbiton High School continues to flourish under a strong Local Governing Body, the Senior Leadership Team and the current Principal, Rebecca Glover. Whilst the ethos and vision of the School has changed over time, the overarching aim to provide an education for girls (and boys) which ensures they are at the forefront of technology and education practice; whilst providing an engaging, innovative curriculum; is one which is still at the heart of the School today.

*As quoted in ‘The first hundred Years of the Church Schools Company’ by Valerie Hope