Unlike neighbouring Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire has no grammar schools (despite a couple having the word in their name) but there are some excellent non-selective secondary schools in the area. It is also home to semi-selective schools which select a portion of their intake by setting entrance exams, usually for academic or music ability, with the rest of the places offered via the usual criteria – siblings, distance etc. These schools are hugely popular, often right across the county and beyond. Make sure you read our article about secondary school admissions.
Secondary schools in St Albans
Parents move heaven and earth (not to mention house) to get into STAGS (St Albans Girls’ School). Results are outstanding, particularly for a non-selective intake, with everyone seeming to get swept along by the culture of learning.
Other well-regarded (all non-selective) schools include Beaumont School (particularly good sixth form) and Sandringham School (great on independent learning and relationships between staff and students). Loreto College is a Catholic secondary girls’ school where teachers know the children well and teach them with creativity.
Secondary schools in Harpenden
There are three main contenders – all non-selective academically - and yes, parents do get the rulers out when they’re choosing which house to buy or on appeals day. The most oversubscribed – and riding high as one of the top non-selective state schools in the country - is St George’s School Harpenden, which combines a Christian community with top-notch results. Coupled with its heritage feel, posh surroundings, herringbone blazers and lacrosse, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a private school. But take note, priority is given to regular church-goers. Sir John Lawes School is seen as the most nurturing of the three main options. It also has a fantastic reputation for media and arts, science, sport. Roundwood Park School sits in the middle of the other two academically, and some local parents say it doesn’t quite have the edge on sport or pastorally.
Secondary schools near Radlett
Parmiter’s School is phenomenally oversubscribed with a long list of semi-selective criteria. In a sea of strong academic schools, it stands out for being dynamic and friendly, with an inclusive vibe and impressive extracurricular.
Watford Grammar School for Boys and Watford Grammar School for Girls are, despite their names, semi-selective. If you have a daughter with a desire to succeed, she’ll flourish, and not just academically. A favourite at sixth form too. The boys’ school is less academic, but still gets results well above the national average and, according to parents, also ticks sporting and musical boxes, as well as ‘turns out real gentlemen’.
Dame Alice Owen’s School soars ahead of the lot academically and this semi-selective school is also known for its music. ‘If you manage to get a place, congratulations, you have won the lottery,’ says our reviewer. Among other popular semi-selective schools are Bushey Meads School and Queen’s School, both in Bushey, while among faith schools, St Michael’s High School is a big hitter.
Secondary schools in Rickmansworth
‘Sighs of relief are audible across the valley for those securing their place on National Offers Day by parents who have paid a hefty premium on their house to live in catchment,’ says our reviewer of semi-selective St Clement Danes School, which produces excellent results year after year, as well as excelling in extracurricular. But you’ll need to be on the Chorleywood side of town to get one of the non-selective places.
Grammar school enthusiasts close to the Bucks border in Chorleywood may have a very small chance of Dr Challoner’s High School or Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, while Chesham Grammar School takes more youngsters from the neighbouring (and out of catchment) Herts local authority - but for all of them, it really depends on the year group. These schools are also popular at sixth form, though you’ll likely need a sweep of 9s at GCSE.
In Rickmansworth itself, Rickmansworth School is a popular semi-selective school whose overhaul in languages teaching and pastoral care have reaped benefits in recent years, while Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School is a good faith school.
State secondary schools for children with special educational needs in West Hertfordshire
The Herts County Council website outlines SEND education options and admissions.
Garston Manor is a special secondary school for children with learning difficulties and/or speech, language and communication needs. Most of the children from Colnbrook School in Watford move on to this school. The rest of the secondary provision we rate forms part of all-through schools mentioned in the primary school section: Heathlands School and St Luke’s School, both in St Albans, and The Collett School in Hemel Hempstead.
St Michael Catholic High School is a mainstream school with resourced SEN provision. Ditto for Loreto College whose services include a transition programme for those with additional needs, literacy intervention, mentoring, assistive technology and a personal development programme for autistic students.