Bromley High School A GSG School
- Bromley High School
- Head: Mrs Angela Drew
- T 020 8781 7000
- F 020 8781 7002
- E firstname.lastname@example.org
- W www.bromleyhigh.gdst.net
- A mainstream independent school for girls aged from 11 to 18
- Boarding: No
- Local authority: Bromley
- Pupils: 892
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Fees: £15,942 pa
- Open days: Last Saturday in September/First Saturday in October, or by appointment. Additional open events in March and May Taster Days throughout the year
- Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
- ISI report: View the ISI report
- Linked schools: Bromley High Junior School
What The Good Schools Guide says..
Views come into their own from the upper floors – a science teacher jokingly referring to his lab as the penthouse. There is the large Crompton library – Richmal Crompton, the author of Just William, taught at the school –...
What the school says...
We are a school where both excellence and endeavour are valued; where academic achievement and extra-curricular commitment are expected of every girl. The Independent Schools Inspectorate judged the school to be 'Excellent' in every aspect and awarded the rare accolade of 'Exceptional' to girls' Learning and Achievement. 2015 and 2016, Bromley High School was shortlisted for the award for 'Outstanding Progress in a UK Independent School' reflecting the aspirational ethos of the school.
In a green and leafy environment with space to grow and have fun, our girls make rapid progress academically and socially. In 2016, the school was shortlisted in the national EBA Awards for its outstanding provision for the teaching of science and technology. Girls at Bromley High are happy to express intellectual enthusiasm; free to pursue their interests without regard to boys' subjects or girls' subjects; confident to take the lead in the multitude of activities we offer. ...Read more
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What The Good Schools Guide saysViews come into their own from the upper floors – a science teacher jokingly referring to his lab as the penthouse. There is the large Crompton library – Richmal Crompton, the author of Just William, taught at the school – open until 5.30pm every day to facilitate homework. Sixth formers have their own large, light common room where they can eat their lunch, hang out on sofas and study in free periods.
Since September 2014, Angela Drew BA PGCE MBA (50s). She studied English literature in Durham and then spent a year working with mentally disabled adults before entering teaching. She is an ISI inspector. Previously deputy head (academic) of Epsom College. She was head of English and drama at The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh and has taught at George Watson’s, Whitgift and Prior Park College. She teaches AS thinking skills from Y10. Friendly and open, she wears her headship lightly. A hope and ambition for the girls is that they will not just be prepared for the modern world but lead it.
After the departure of her relatively short-lived predecessor, Mrs Drew’s initial year must have been spent on something of a caffeine high as she hosted 30 coffee mornings with groups of parents. ‘She is passionate and proud of the girls, supportive and comes to so many events during school time and outside school hours. I believe she promotes the importance of an all-rounder with particular focus on the academics,’ said a mother. Another: ‘I think the headteacher has come into a well-established and successful school and she has made her mark. She has shaken up the PE department and this has improved. She has employed extremely good teachers and bought in different teaching methods’.
Married with a daughter reading English at UCL and a son studying history at Leeds, Mrs Drew enjoys reading and theatre and is a committed Evertonian. She lives nearby in rural Kent.
There has been a great curriculum shake-up in recent years, with most recent results not reflecting the wider choice of subjects available to GCSE students. As well as the expected core curriculum girls could choose dance, photography, classical civilisation, economics or additional maths. The sixth form offering adds in psychology, government and politics, business studies, plus a Pre-U in theology and philosophy. In 2016, 61 per cent A*/A at GCSE and 48 per cent A*/A at A level.
In the sixth form classes do not exceed 14 pupils, some tuition groups are just a handful, and girls seem unfettered to pursue their own interests. Indeed this seems to be a strength of the school. Subjects don’t have to be chosen with any timetabling restrictions and our sixth form guides described being encouraged to find their passions, no matter how slowly these emerge, whilst teachers offer guidance with a weather eye to careers and UCAS applications. Mrs Drew: ‘we’re very focused on where they’re going, but they are free as to how they get there’. Triple science, literature and maths are the core (and the mathematicians really shine). For two consecutive years, upper sixth girls have gained the Salter’s Award for the second highest chemistry A2 mark in the UK.
The school isn’t considering the IB but elements such as the extended project are not mandatory but on offer. Up to 16, few stray far from the more academic subjects: most take nine or 10, including several IGCSEs. Plenty of modern linguists, but curriculum changes have provoked a huge resurgence in classics – 39 girls are currently studying Latin in year 10. When we queried whether Mandarin is on the horizon, Mrs Drew says she is ‘tempted’. DT, but no food technology: a swing too far from gender stereotyping? Having seen the girls’ impressive rainforest cakes in the geography bake off, perhaps there is little left to teach.
More than 20 teaching staff have been with the school for over 10 years. The school’s newly minted ISI report declares teaching to be ‘exceptional’. Praise for the teaching from parents ranges from the extremely appreciative to slight wistfulness from a couple who have come up from the all-singing-and-dancing junior school. A typically balanced report: ‘there are some teachers who clearly go above and beyond to be approachable and encouraging and these members of staff are well liked and respected by the girls.’ The head has just appointed a new academic deputy, a former head of science at St Paul’s Girls’, who has encouraged independent learning and ‘risky’ lessons. Mrs Drew has also introduced external workshops led by graduates to cultivate good study habits for both pupils and parents.
Trips, masterclasses and competitions inspire free thinking beyond exercise books. Year 12s were recently boggled by a speech recognition lecture by a leading light at Google; sixth formers secured tickets to see Simon Russell-Beale perform their set text at the National Theatre; whilst GCSE artists took a study tour of Vermeer’s Amsterdam; meanwhile year 11 biologists extracted the DNA from strawberries and the historians put Hitler on trial. Terry Waite was soon to take part in a cross-curricular ‘brain day’, discussing how he survived captivity.
The curriculum has switched from ICT to computer science, a new computer lab has been unveiled and GCSE and A level students joined 20,000 classrooms worldwide in two weeks of ‘an hour of code’. Science labs are well-equipped and gradually being modernised. Meanwhile, girls have been proud winners of two Arkwright engineering scholarships. Serious contenders in the national Maths Challenges. Year 10s also recently won gold in the national Biology Challenge. A parent told us that the girls have so many public speaking opportunities it becomes ‘second nature’. Those year 10s seem to be on fire, having also qualified for this year’s Oxford finals of the international youth debating championship.
Maths is set immediately on entry; science is set in year 9 and English from year 10. As always, parental thoughts on the amount of homework down to the individual child’s stamina: some think it’s a lot, particularly in the exam years, whilst some ‘could actually do with a bit more’ lower down the school. Holiday homework ‘keeps things ticking over’.
Only a tiny number of girls receiving one-to-one support for identified learning differences as support is provided in lessons. Most girls with SEN have dyslexia but a few have dyspraxia or are high functioning ASD. No additional fees for learning support. Those capable of working up to three years beyond their chronological age are offered extension opportunities within the curriculum and via clubs, competitions and collaborations across the GDST, maths masterclasses and a STEM day.
Everyone does work experience in year 11 after GCSEs. The head recently took a group of year 10s – anyone who wanted to come – to meet an old girl at Cambridge. Teachers are said to be ‘plugged in’ to additional opportunities such as CV boosting competitions to enter. The GDST alumni network of 65,000 is invaluable for arranging work experience. Café Scientifique is a drop-in lecture series where girls are exposed to parents and old girls with inspiring careers and life experiences. And those prepping for Oxbridge have the benefit of the whole network of schools to form a cohort.
Games, Options, the Arts
Sport is compulsory for all girls up until the end of lower sixth. Upping the ante – bringing the fixture list and ambition in line with the 25 acres and facilities – was one of the head’s first priorities. She has recruited a new director of sport, previously head of netball at Alleyn’s, and a male hockey coach. The U16A hockey team is currently Kent county champion Someone is keeping score as they tell us the hockey teams have played 123 fixtures in the last year celebrating over 300 goals. The Olympic size Astroturf is newly floodlit. Girls compete in netball, athletics, swimming, cross-country, rounders and are accomplished gymnasts. Increasing numbers getting to go on the bus, as the school fields A-D netball and rounders teams. Sixth formers are thrilled with the new gym, like a mini health club, for use with a buddy at lunch times or after school. Year 10s give zumba and aerobics a go. The school’s indoor pool can also be used by girls’ families one evening a week and Saturday mornings. Girls able to brave the British weather enjoy the bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh challenges, compulsory in year 10, with a couple completing gold before reaching university.
More artists than musicians in terms of academic study, but a very musical school. Music theory is taught to years 7-9. We met a lone A level student, studying music tech. The majority of girls learn a musical instrument or have vocal tuition. Last year the senior school music tour was to Prague. One parent suggested there would be more take up of instrumental lessons if girls did not miss important lesson time. Some 24 peripatetic music staff teach to grade 8 on 16 different instruments and over 60 per cent played their way to a merit or distinction last year. There is regular success at Bromley and Beckenham Music Festival and girls have performed at Southwark Cathedral, the Royal Festival Hall and enjoyed tours to Spain and Normandy with choirs and ensembles.
Each year sees dance and drama productions with students performing, singing, playing in orchestra, and lighting, choreographing and undertaking backstage skills. One has a starring role in EastEnders.
High quality art is displayed around the school. We squinted through the door at the appealing art studio with mezzanine level as exams were in progress. Several pupils have exhibited at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. The DT facilities are extensive and enthusiastically used with the usual laser cutter but also a 3D printer.
Lunch time is deliberately long. Clubs range from the cosy such as ‘knit and natter’ and card games, the sporty – rugby, horse-riding or squad training – to the stimulating: robotics, DT divas and TED talks club. Musicians might try jazz, percussion or chamber strings. We were assured girls do not spend their lunch hours cutting up cadavers but were intrigued to note the forensics club. Sixth formers are equally engaged running their own discussion group, most recently on the death penalty.
Background and Atmosphere
The school opened in 1883, aiming to provide education for girls on a par with that of their brothers, and the first entrants described it as a bit like being in the army: there are photos of girls doing PE wearing ties. Originally in a Victorian building, the school relocated to its present site in 1981. The wooden honours boards line one of the modern corridors, their name in gold being something the girls still aspire to today.
The campus is spacious and green but with few mature trees to take the edge off the already plain buildings. The Parents’ Association’s most recent purchase has been sturdy wooden parasols to provide much-needed shade. Views come into their own from the upper floors – a science teacher jokingly referring to his lab as the penthouse. There is the large Crompton library – Richmal Crompton, the author of Just William, taught at the school – open until 5.30pm every day to facilitate homework. Sixth formers have their own large, light common room where they can eat their lunch, hang out on sofas and study in free periods. The dining hall is newly decorated in a zingy lime with lots of fruit and salad in evidence.
The grey and burgundy uniform here is particularly smart, with blazers on when not in lessons. The fashion seems to be for patent loafers with knee socks. Girls assured us that there isn’t an ‘it’ bag culture. Sixth formers look smart and ready for anything in ‘business attire’, mostly jackets with skirts but they are free to express some individuality.
Girls burst out of lessons onto the wide carpeted corridors seeming relaxed. Asked to describe the school, a parent said, ‘I feel there is pressure for the girls to succeed but above that I feel they push each girl individually to get the best out of them’; another, ‘I feel the school is quite competitive – but very caring as most teachers know each girl individually and care for their welfare.’ One of our guides said fondly of her time here since the age of 4: ‘it’s a really nice bubble’.
Pastoral care, well-being and discipline
Everyone we spoke to praised the school’s pastoral care. ‘I think the school provides excellent pastoral care. Teachers are involved and approachable and seem to work together,’ said one. Parents universally expressed confidence in the school’s ability to take care of any issues of bullying and felt that their daughters would be able to raise it. The school has one of the most thorough positive mental health policies we have seen, with a particular awareness of eating disorders, depression and self-harm as very live potential issues for students. There is a part-time student counsellor and ‘big sister, little sister’ pairs senior with younger girls.
Rules seem low key. Girls are allowed to wear ‘discreet’ make-up from year 9, earlier than many. Mobile phones to be kept in lockers away from lessons. From Mrs Drew’s nonplussed response to our enquiry about any exclusions we gather that discipline is not something she has to worry about. Girls are engaging seriously with the current new wave of feminism and issues such as university rape culture. They have recently set up a LGBT club.
Pupils and Parents
Although parents describe the school as ‘mixed’, it is not as culturally diverse as more central London schools with just over 10 per cent of girls speaking another language at home.
Mainly white British with a mix of other ethnicities including Chinese, German, Portuguese and Hindi. The majority of girls come from the local area of Orpington, Bromley, Beckenham and Dulwich via a direct train route, but a proportion of girls also travel in from rural Kent.
The commutes of working parents are well-supported with both a free breakfast club from 7.30am and a homework club after school until 5.30pm.
Over 70 per cent of the junior school girls transfer to the senior school, the majority without an 11+ assessment, although some choose to sit the test. Places for outsiders are offered via testing in the January prior to entry in verbal and non-verbal reasoning and creative writing plus a short mathematics extension paper. We are told that competition is stiffening as pressure for places increases. Pupils with identified SEN are given 25 per cent more time.
Pupils join from a range of independent prep schools and state primaries including Breaside Prep, Blackheath Prep, Merton Court, St Christopher’s, The Hall, Rosemead Prep, Oakfield Prep and St Olave’s Prep. External applicants to the sixth form subject to GCSE entry requirements, school reference and interview.
Some 30 per cent leave at 16 to enter mainly co-ed sixth forms. Around half of A level leavers to Russell Group universities with Barts Medical School, Exeter, Bristol, Sheffield, Warwick, Loughborough and Nottingham amongst the favourite destinations in 2016.
Bursaries and scholarships in penny numbers for girls entering at year 7 and the lower sixth only, including honorary scholarships and minor awards for artists' materials and music lessons. Academic scholarships based on entrance test results. Bursaries are available on entry to the senior school and offer up to full fees for the academically gifted who could not otherwise afford to attend. Parents should expect their finances to be scrutinised in detail on application and each year thereafter. Some sixth form scholarships for which candidates must prepare a written application.
A selective school, offering a wonderful range of opportunities to widen horizons and develop new interests. Suits academically able girls with lots of drive.