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Good Schools Guide Review 2023

‘RSM is a warm, welcoming environment with a healthy balance between academic challenge and creating well rounded, happy children’. Good Schools Guide April 2023


What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2003 Marcus Culverwell, a local boy who grew up in Warlingham. Now entering his 18th year as head of RSM he truly wants to get the best for every pupil, ‘He understands and knows all the children,’ said one parent. Clearly no trouble winning parents over, he’s also popular with staff, one of whom described him as ‘a breath of fresh air’ – no mean feat after two decades. As a boy, Mr Culverwell loved physics and all things mechanical, which led him to study mechanical and aeronautical engineering at Brunel. Trained as an engineering lecturer, but ended up teaching science in schools, and that’s where he remained. He became head of science at Lancing College Prep in his 20s, then spent several years as director of studies and finally deputy head. Was also deputy at RSM before taking up the headship. Having felt he was pulled too often from the classroom to meetings, he no longer teaches but we are assured that his presence is always felt around school.

His belief that ‘good relationships in life are key to learning’ is supported by comments from staff, parents and pupils: ‘so supportive’, ‘treats everyone fairly and equally’, ‘extremely approachable, not stuffy’.

Mr Culverwell wants children to grow up to be socially responsible and well informed about the issues that face our planet. He has worked with resource provider Plan Bee to create an education framework focusing on the environment as well as individual and community wellbeing, ensuring that all young people can be socially responsible and give back to society more than they take from it. One of his current reads is The Meaning of the 21st Century, by James Martin, and he has even written a book himself about climate change: Don’t Hide The Truth: Our Children’s Future and the Storms Ahead. He says, ‘Children need to know what it means to have a fantastic and fulfilled life on a safe planet, and this is much more important than just getting good grades.’ Let’s hope parents agree.

His guitar hangs on the wall of his office and he regularly brings it out for assemblies. He also likes to keep up with the latest music trends and has even taught himself rap. He was thrilled to show us his ‘I like to boogie’ t-shirt that he often wears whilst dancing or rapping with the children as well as a video of one of his assemblies (surprisingly impressive). Although his office is tucked away in a non-teaching building, there was plenty of activity with staff and pupils using nearby study areas.

A family man who firmly stands behind his belief that we are ‘letting our children down if we don’t educate them on the issues facing our planet’, he has three children, the youngest of whom is at Reigate Grammar School.


Non-selective at 2.5+ into Green Shoots (the first of two nursery years) based on first come first served basis, maximum 30 children. Kindergarten (the second nursery year which is the preschool year) takes in an additional 10 children to make up a year group of 40 children split into two classes. Entry from year 3, when an extra class is periodically added, involves a taster day for informal observations, verbal and non-verbal reasoning with maths and English. ‘Association with RGS a big pull to RSM,’ said one parent.


Typically, 80 per cent of pupils move up to the senior school, Reigate Grammar. The rest to eg Dunottar, Box Hill, St Teresa’s, Manor House, Worth and Hurstpierpoint. There’s no written entrance exam for entrance to the senior school and scholarships are awarded on the basis of continual assessment from year 3-6. The system has its pluses and minuses, ‘Pupils are prepared for learning and taught well but don’t know how to take exams,’ said one parent and another felt the on-track process ‘wasn’t as good as taking exams.’

Our view

Set in the heart of Reigate with an expanse of green open space on a plot of 15 acres, RSM was founded in 1950 and is one of an elite group of fewer than 40 schools who can claim full membership of the Choir School Association. Entry into the choir (from age 8) is based on ‘relaxed assessment’ and gives pupils a ‘good [musical] grounding’. Rehearsing 10+ hours per week, the choir sings regularly in school and St Mary’s church next door, as well as services and concerts nationally. Successful candidates are awarded scholarships which can continue to the age of 13 at RGS. Music is embedded in the school’s history and is an important part of the curriculum for all, whether choristers or not.

Our tour of the school was conducted by the marketing manager (sadly not pupils, but we did meet some later on) and began in the original 18th century building, now home to school admin along with the choristers’ practice room. Copies of The Reigatian (school magazine of Reigate Grammar) are prominently on display – no hiding the links to the senior school.

Nursery classes are at the back of the school, with purpose-built sensory and climbing areas and all-weather play spaces. Big sell here is the wrap-around care for 48 weeks of the year, ‘My daughter asks me to go to work earlier so that she can go to breakfast club,’ said a parent. Strong emphasis on children making their own decisions; characters such as Have a Go Hippo, Choosing Chimp and Busy Bee are introduced from nursery and emphasise this, combined with a bubble system so a child can highlight they have a worry without having to initiate a conversation. Growth mindset and zones to help the children recognise and regulate their feelings are strongly developed throughout the school.

Working with the theme of ‘people who help us’, reception was buzzing with the excitement of the upcoming visit from the fire brigade – children were outside, energetically making their own fire engine and fire hats, getting stuck in with paint and different materials.

Impressive IT department (Macs and PCs) where children learn a broad spectrum of tech starting with walkie talkies and light boxes; every child from year 4 is given their own iPad. ‘Embracing all that technology has to offer’ said one parent of the school’s STEM programme. We were treated to a presentation by the year 6 ‘Razor Sharp Minds’ team who had recently reached the UK finals in the annual worldwide Lego Robotics competition. Their presentation of how kinetic floor tiles work together and how they could utilise them at RSM and other schools was extremely impressive. The uninspiring (inside and out) science block didn’t match the swanky Lego on offer or the quality of infrastructure elsewhere and is in need of modernisation, was compensated for by the enthusiasm of teaching staff who we spotted encouraging pupils to get stuck in and touch eggs that had been soaked in various liquids.

SEN staff (11 in total either full or part-time) support pupils with dyslexia, EBSD, ASD, ADHD and those with physical disabilities. One-to-one sessions take place in specialist pods that provide imaginative learning spaces, combined with in class support. School also buys in external counsellors whose services are offered at no extra charge. Working closely with a mental health charity RSM, ‘Offers the support and strategies to foster a child’s full potential,’ a parent told us.

Spacious grounds include a forest school, pond and stream – you would never know the school is in the centre of town. We saw year 2 children using natural resources to create a display of fractions in a twig hoop – communication between departments clearly works, fractions in maths linked to fractions in forest school.

School has four football pitches, hockey pitch, two multi-purpose courts, an artificial cricket strip and a 200m grass running track. Pupils also use the senior school’s impressive facilities and swimming pool, a short distance away. Wide range of sports on offer, not just the usual netball, hockey, football, cricket, rugby but judo, martial arts, dance, swimming and athletics. Regular fixtures against other schools including county and regional competitions, ‘Everyone has a chance, not just the super sporty kids,’ said a parent. No outdated gender selection, girls can play rugby, boys netball and cricket is played with mixed girls and boys teams. Sports hall doubles up for drama productions where ‘every child is made to feel included’ said one parent after a recent production. RSM boast a huge variety of extracurricular clubs with over 50 available each week. ‘The opportunities to grow and build confidence outside of the classroom are endless,’ a parent told us.

The dining hall, small and somewhat tired looking, could do with a refurb, but certainly doesn’t cramp the style of the head chef, who manages two or three sittings every lunch plus a wide variety of dietary requirements.

Year 5 are given positions of responsibility and in year 6 everyone has a leadership role (mainly of their choice). One parent told us, ‘The confidence of my child has grown so much given the level of responsibility in year 6.’

‘Not a school for bad behaviour,’ said a parent. One pupil explained the six levels of warnings but added, ‘warnings hardly ever happen in our school.’ A few parental gripes about communication and the ‘endless’ e-mails, ‘keeping up with them is a full-time job.

Reigate was recently named as one of the best places to live by a national newspaper and its schools are part of that attraction. Parents include city professionals, doctors, lawyers and business owners.

The last word

A vibrant, inclusive school that not only prepares children for their next stage in education but also for life. RSM is a warm, welcoming environment that confidently maintains a healthy balance between academic challenge and creating well rounded, happy children.



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