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We witnessed some marvellous lessons with lively teachers who, rather than treat the pupils as if they were Strasbourg Geese, encouraged questioning and discussion and were rewarded by a lot of both. There is a palpable fizz in the classrooms. Fizz but no aggression.  A recent building which has made a considerable difference is a wonderful performing arts centre called - for obvious reasons, when you see it - the Octagon. It was there that we were privileged to watch an unforgettable impromptu performance by the school’s hula-hoop champion. A unique delight and rarely…

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What the school says...

Entry to Edgbaston High School for Girls at Year 7 - Girls are required to take tests in; English, Mathematics and a short dictation to assess grammar and spelling. A report is requested from the present school and then an interview with Headmistress is arranged.

Scholarships and means-tested Bursaries are available at Year 7 and Sixth Form entry.
Scholarships are available at entry into Year 3.

Entry other than at Year 7 - Admission in other age groups is dependent on the availability of places and performance in selective entry tests. A selective admissions test at the appropriate age level is administered in core subjects; English, Mathematics and one modern foreign language.

Entry requirements for Sixth Form - A minimum of 6 GCSEs at grades A*-B (including English and Mathematics) and the GCSE grade requirement for each AS Level subject of their choice as described in the Sixth Form Prospectus.
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What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Creative Writing at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

Sports

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2006, Dr Ruth Weeks BSc PhD. A Birmingham girl born and bred, she describes this part of her interesting and successful career as ‘coming home’, but with no disloyalty to her earlier jobs. A chemist by training – that’s how she gained her PhD – she was about to begin academic research on muscles when the demands of her husband’s career caused the family to move. In the course of her career she has been deputy head of Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls and head of Redland High in Bristol. So there’s bags of experience here and a lot of intelligence.

A past GSG entry mentioned, with gentle irony we hope, the King Edward V1 consortium of schools as being the leaders in Birmingham education. Dr Weeks’ response was vigorous, sharp and impressive. There was almost a suggestion of Elizabethan ‘foul scorn’. ‘We know what we are,’ she said with asperity, ‘and we know who we are.’ The school is heavily oversubscribed but Dr Weeks and her SMT meet all the prospective pupils and their parents and visit them in their schools as well. The result is that right from the start of each girl’s time at the school there is a warmth and understanding. The business of meeting so many parents and children – many times the number for whom there are spaces – is enormously time-consuming, but helps to spread a feeling of goodwill. It’s also a shrewd move to keep in contact with local primary schools. Parents told us it was that personal touch that swung it for them and their daughters. Dr Weeks teaches chemistry to years 7 and 13, two significant years.

There is a whiff of the CEO amongst a number of modern heads; heads perhaps dominated by governors who see schools as businesses, and positions in league tables as proof of excellence. EHS does not feel like that, and a mention of the distressing frequency of schools getting rid of pupils who have failed to impress at GCSE and are therefore in danger of lowering A level league positions drew something approaching a snort from this elegant and intelligent head. ‘Of course we don’t,’ she replied to our question. ‘We have a job to do.’ Actually, very few pupils fail to perform well at GCSE. Nonetheless, there is a caveat to all this. See Entrance.

It is said by some that before she arrived the school had become a trifle sleepy. Without being remotely bombastic or hectoring, Dr Weeks has injected new life into this distinguished school – the oldest independent school for girls in Birmingham. With wisdom and intelligence, concern for staff and pupils and an overall appreciation of the school’s potential, together with a clear eye for what is needed and an infectious sense of humour, she has made the school more attractive to parents and increased the range and variety of what is now a broad and progressive curriculum as well as a stimulating extracurricular programme. It is a school for happiness, but not at the expense of academic endeavour and success. It might well be that the happiness that pervades is based on academic pride and pleasure.

Academic matters

There is much rivalry over academic prowess and education amongst the many fine schools in Birmingham. Many parents with whom we spoke cited a school’s position in the league tables as the clearest indication of academic thrust. That depends. Some schools home in on a limited number of subjects, with their sights fixed exclusively on league tables. Probably because the ratio of staff to pupils is very generous, EHS is able to offer a very wide range of subjects - 27 at GCSE, including classical Greek and Latin, with 45 per cent A*/A grades in 2016. All that and a range of 30 subjects at A level (41 per cent A*/A and 75 per cent A*-B grades). It’s a broad range, producing pupils with a wide cross-section of academic skills. Parents like the availability of choice, perceiving it as individual attention – smaller classes – and avoiding stereotypes. We witnessed some marvellous lessons with lively teachers who, rather than treat the pupils as if they were Strasbourg Geese, encouraged questioning and discussion and were rewarded by a lot of both. There is a palpable fizz in the classrooms. Fizz but no aggression.

Supporting this broad choice of examinable subjects is an extraordinary bank of extracurricular activities, always connected with matters academic. Thus the chess club is allied to mathematics; Lab Rats to science; Chinese calligraphy to art; knitting to textiles; creative writing club to English; Crest Awards to science; Mandarin for beginners etc. We gave up after counting after 30 options. No time is wasted: some sessions take place at lunch time, some after school.

Games, options, the arts

A recent building which has made a considerable difference is a wonderful performing arts centre called - for obvious reasons, when you see it - the Octagon. In itself it is a very attractive and versatile building and an ideal space for concerts, plays – senior and junior productions - assemblies, exams (aaargh), ballet and other activities. It was there that we were privileged to watch an unforgettable impromptu performance by the school’s hula-hoop champion. A unique delight and rarely seen in schools of such calibre. There is masses of music and everyone seems to be involved in concerts of varying kinds. Art contributes much to the creative soul of the school. Three studios offer a variety of media including ceramics, printmaking and graphic design as well as traditional painting and drawing. Annual visits to Paris, Florence and Rome. As far as sport is concerned this school is pretty healthy: football, cricket, hockey, basketball, fencing, tennis, netball, rounders and cross-country are pursued with great enthusiasm. To have 14 acres of playing fields in this city school is very useful; to have a fitness suite is wonderful; to have a recently refurbished swimming pool - over 50 years old - is rare; and to have an all-weather pitch seems a real bonus. And it’s nearly all happened since the school awoke under the perceptive wisdom of the Great Doctor.

Background and atmosphere

‘The aim of this institution is to afford to the girls of this important neighbourhood an education which shall be the best that this age can afford’. So said Miss Alice Cooper, the first head, in 1878. They are words that would be echoed nearly 150 years later. The founders were keen to make available a broad, liberal education and EHS has always been characterised by its non-denominational approach to teaching and learning, education rather than grade accumulation. A glance at the current list of governors confirms that the Quaker and Unitarian roots remain deeply embedded in the school. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and non-judgemental. Friday assemblies in the Octagon are spent silently listening to music; ‘It’s cool,’ said one girl to us. Lots of charitable work. The reaction to our question about racial mix was a puzzled look. ‘We’re all happy,’ was the answer. Silly question.

We had the doubtful privilege of reaching our destination via Five Ways roundabout. Thus it was already a pleasure and a relief to arrive at the handsome entrance. There we were greeted with warmth and courtesy in the car park by a groundsman. The warmth of our reception was constant, wherever we went. The atmosphere was palpable. Grounds staff, incidentally, are always very good indicators of what a school is really like.

An impressive array of new buildings has sprung up in the last few years. We visited the new, state-of-the-art sixth form area complete with comfortable chairs, books, improving magazines, tables to work at, facilities for making coffee and tea and a balcony terrace for dreaming. Why not? A marvellous room for discussing the great things of life and considerably superior to many universities. Five new specialist classrooms help accommodate all those subjects taught. The general study area has also been extended and significantly upgraded, to provide a wireless network, laptop computers and interactive white boards. All the gismos. We visited the wonderful new library, which is now almost double its original size, with research and fiction sections as well as a fully equipped ICT suite.

Sparky teaching. Lively brains. But who remembers that ‘education is what you remember when you’ve forgotten everything you were taught at school’? Wherever we went we were greeted with friendliness and courtesy and a welcome current of humour.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

This is a very friendly, happy school where teachers and pupils seem to get on well with each other with mutual respect and affection. Form tutors and individual subject teachers have a recognisable role to play but there are more layers than that. The arrival of new pupils aged 11+ does seem to bring out the kindness of the older girls. Time and time again girls told us how easy it was to settle down on arrival, not only because there is a mentoring system in place where sixth formers ‘shadow’ the younger, but because of the overall atmosphere.

Pupils and parents

Pupils come from all over Birmingham and beyond. Parents are a loyal bunch who are keen to do what they can to support a school for which they feel gratitude and fondness. There is an active and enthusiastic parents’ association which has its own website.

OGs include Molly Dineen, film-maker; Lydia Hislop, journalist; Professor Sally Davies, chief medical officer at the Department of Health; Robyn Jones OBE, businesswoman; Philippa Lett, top model, and Kate Williams, author and TV historian. Plus current pupil Malala Yousafzai, girls' education activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Entrance

Many join from the prep at 11, others from local primaries. Maths and English exams plus interview. Entry into the sixth form requires a minimum of six GCSEs at grades A*-B (including English and maths), plus good grades in prospective A level subjects. Progression from year 11 at EHS into the sixth form and from the lower sixth to upper sixth is dependent in all cases upon sustained good progress and attitude.

Exit

Around 15 per cent leave after GCSEs. Huge variety of universities and subjects. Most years some Oxbridge places - two to Cambridge in 2016, plus one medic; Birmingham is the most popular destination. A few gap years. Good, careful advice and help reported by parents and past pupils. Certainly no suggestion of pupils being compelled against their wishes.

Money matters

There are moves afoot, as with so many schools in Birmingham, to raise money to make the school more accessible to parents who need financial help. There are bursaries and scholarships available. Interested parents should not be embarrassed to ask.

Our view

‘Rigour with kindness’ is one summary we were given. Both words are appropriate. It’s a wonderful school for the warmth and affection which pervades, along with academic toughness. The breadth does not hide the toughness: it succeeds not through a shapeless smudge but through wonderful, rigorous teaching and the right choice of subjects. It is attention to detail that makes the system work; that, and a shameless love of learning.

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Special Education Needs

Comprehensive SEN provision from 2 1/2 to 18. The School has an individual needs policy that ensures it meets the needs of every girl. This is achieved through 1 to 1 support, small group work, weekly clubs, schemes of work and departmental policies. The school prides itself on how well it knows each girl and provides appropriate support. Staff, parents and girls work closely together to make the girl's experience at EHS happy and productive. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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