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Edgbaston High School for Girls

What says..

‘We want parents to understand we’ll get girls their GCSEs and A levels, sending them off to good universities – it’s about more than a first class education. It is about teacher support, strong pastoral care and clubs, opportunities and exercise for life’, says headmistress. One pupil told us teachers are, ‘good at pushing you past what you think you can do.’ A parent praised, ‘they create the right environment to build confidence and realise potential academically and in other areas.'

 

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What the school says...

Edgbaston High School is an independent girls through school for girls aged 2.5 to 18 years. Entry into Year 7 at EHS is via examination. In 2021 this will consist of a 50 minute online assessment with a follow up interview. All girls sitting the exam are automatically considered for an academic scholarship.

Entry into Prep School is subject to a girl passing an entrance test. New girls can be accepted all year round, subject to availability of places.

Entry into Senior School 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 9 -6 (including English and Mathematics) and the GCSE grade requirement for each AS Level subject of their choice as described in the Sixth Form Prospectus.

The school offers limited bursaries for Reception and Year 3 as well as scholarships and means-tested bursaries at Year 7 and Sixth Form entry.
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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 2019, Clare Macro (40s). Enjoyed state education in Leicester where lower, middle and upper schools sat in a row. ‘You hopped from one to another until the top of the road’. Considered police or career as barrister when heading to Exeter College, Oxford to read theology, yet teaching, ‘came to mind’ because of love for her subject (both parents also teachers). PGCE at Westminster College, Oxford before teaching posts at The Judd School and Latymer Upper where she met and married fellow teacher, Bill. Following birth of their three children she developed the ‘classic female reaction that I couldn’t be head of department,’ yet taking the plunge at Headington School, Oxford realised she was more than capable. Thence to Tudor Hall School rising to deputy head under ‘incredible mentorship of headmistress’. ‘Taught me about helping individuals to flourish’ and that schools must have, ‘a symbiotic balance between teachers, pupils and parents.’ Next step, ‘to see if I was cut out for headship’.

Despite taking the helm just before first lockdown, parents have seen, ‘really positive changes.’ ‘From day one she has gone the extra mile’. Pupils say she has a ‘bubbly personality’, is ‘very approachable’ and ‘has a young, relaxed feel.’

‘What gets me up each morning is the children’ says Mrs Macro. ‘Sadly, climbing the teaching ladder, you can lose your daily interaction with them, but it is vital to stay connected.’ To that end she is timetabled to teach, and enjoys finding ways to ‘stop and have a chat.’ She laughs, ‘The children will say I talk too much!’.

Her study feels more like a sitting room as we perch on sofas, sipping tea, chatting across a low table. ‘I love reading’ (currently ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink’), walk a lot and…’ leaning forward she stage whispers, ‘...to be honest, recently lots of Netflix!’. Yet this headmistress rarely sits still - she completed a marathon in 2018 - and leads by example encouraging girls to strive, not just in academia, ‘success is not a string of A*s and 9s’, it’s ‘developing a wealth of skills to become strong, confident, successful, driven women, sights firmly set at the top of their chosen careers.’

Proud of online marketing strategies, harnessing, ‘best of social media’ forming connections for extracurricular and enrichment programmes and dialogue with, ‘aspirational’ alumni for networking opportunities. Future plans include creating more ‘transitional’ space for sixth formers.

‘We want parents to understand we’ll get girls their GCSEs and A levels, sending them off to good universities – it’s about more than a first class education. It is about teacher support, strong pastoral care and clubs, opportunities and exercise for life’.

Entrance

Covid saw entrance exam go online to stay. A mix of non-verbal reasoning, English and maths, ‘so pupils can’t be coached to succeed, allowing for a more even playing field’. Headmistress keen to stress it isn’t about current achievement but, ‘harnessing potential’. Hence interviews are, ‘so important, as is tour, meeting headmistress or leadership team.’

Approximately half year 7 intake come from own prep (junior school). Headmistress refreshingly transparent about fluctuations. ’Some don’t get into grammar so come to us then try again - perhaps that makes us a victim of our own success?’

Exit

Around 28 percent move on, after GCSE. Headmistress appreciates that for some who arrive at EHS aged 2 ½, ‘it’s understandable to want a change.’ University destinations include Leeds, Birmingham, Warwick, Nottingham Trent, Exeter, Swansea. In 2021, one dentistry, one biomedicine; no Oxbridge. Handful each year to apprenticeships or foundation courses.

Latest results

School is not publishing 2021 results. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 55 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 43 per cent A*/A at A level (76 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

‘Teaching is about connections’, headmistress asserts. ‘It’s 95 per cent about relationships, If you get that right everything else will follow.’ Parents comment, ‘teaching staff stay for a long time’ - speaks volumes.

Teachers, ‘appreciate everyone comes to learning differently so tailor lessons’ say parents, ‘they know girls on a personal level, not just a face in the classroom.’ Staff say they, ‘support and challenge each child in equal measure whether club, lessons, sport, to be the best that they can be.’ One pupil told us teachers are, ‘good at pushing you past what you think you can do.’ Parents appreciate that, ‘‘There’s simply no need for tutors, school covers it all’.

Class sizes up to 20, dropping to around 12 in sixth form. Each pupil loaned iPad from year 7. Phones not permitted at all during school day.

Huge range of subjects on offer: 21 GCSE and 28 A level options including dance, textiles and politics. A few take up to 12 GCSEs and four A levels alongside enrichment programmes and EPQ. One pupil requested GCSE in ancient Greek and teachers facilitated with lunchtime lessons. Parents appreciate there is ‘no pressure, each girl does what they are capable of. Progress tracked throughout by termly testing, meaning as one parent put it, ‘exams are not seen as something to stress over.’ A parent suggested communication could improve for middle of road pupils.

Bright, cheerful science labs complete with models, posters, diagrams galore. Every corridor choc-a-bloc with pupils’ academia, art, ceramics - our head was turned by a delicious looking chocolate eclair. Plentiful library - areas for quiet study, reading, computers for research, adjoining well stocked IT suite.

Older cohort enjoy large sixth form centre, lofty common room, outside terrace and work spaces. Sixth form perk to bring own lunch; kitchen a hub for tea and, ‘toast with chocolate spread’. Small kitchen for year 11s.

Learning support and SEN

Teachers strive to keep learning support and extension in classroom rather than separate individual or group sessions. Parents praise teachers for coaxing best from pupils, ‘suggesting my daughter use a laptop has changed everything.’ Sixth form mentors support individuals or run clubs.

EHS welcome pupils with English as second language, supporting transition and continued development. Allocated ‘buddy’ who speaks same first language, understands culture and challenges.

Wheelchair access and lifts available to assist pupils with physical disability. School has particular experience with dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, generalised processing issues and ADHD.

The arts and extracurricular

‘Drama is strong’ say parents. Year 7s working on Alan Ayckbourn play, junior theatre rehearsing ‘Diary of Anne Frank’, and seniors, Dr Faustus. Whole school musicals biannually with local schools (including boys) joining production; external company creates dazzling sets. Drama offered at GCSE and A level; LAMDA from years 2 to 13.

Parents acknowledge, ‘EHS do music well, but could be more emphasis on making it fun’, ‘it’s too stuffy.’ Girls perform music in assemblies once a week. Musician of the year competition (held every two years) is a ‘highlight.’ A choir, ‘everyone can join’ fosters inclusion; chamber choir by audition. String ensembles, tea time concerts - ‘a lovely way to end the day’ says headmistress. Recent productions include, ‘Les Mis’ and ‘Miss Saigon.’ School will loan musical instruments to those interested in taking them up.

Capacious Octagon for assemblies and performances – can seat 600. Two crows’ nests, state of the art lighting and sound rigs give pupils control behind the scenes.

Art department bursts with creativity across three studios. Pupils study rotation of ceramics, fine art and graphics. We were impressed by sheer volume of fired and glazed creations. Textiles department clearly talent hub as swathed mannequins across school testify. Healthy cohort take GCSE and A level in art, graphic design or textiles.

Choice of around 50 extracurricular clubs: Glee, cheerleading, dungeons & dragons and henna hand painting - many founded by pupils, ‘Anyone can set up a club, you just ask.’ Mixed age groups encourage socialisation, ‘my daughter is the only one from her year in dance but she doesn’t mind, it’s so welcoming,’ praised a parent.

Head of enrichment explains school’s programme is invaluable resource for those seeking ‘academic nourishment.’ ‘EHS are really good at it’ say parents. Events include academic days, current affairs debates, STEM days, humanities day - recent speakers have included Ranulph Fiennes and Bake Off’s Nadia Hussain. Lockdown technology has, ‘opened up guest speakers from around world.’ Mock trials, lectures, and endless individual competitive opportunities spanning curriculum; winners presented at ‘celebration assembly.’ Key stage 3 take ‘EHS challenge badge ‘encouraging wellbeing.’

Pupils relish extensive opportunities; one told us she would complete EPQ in U6 - spending L6 on Young Enterprise, alongside four A levels. Each sixth former we spoke to was mentor to younger pupils, had or was planning to host assembly and attended more than one club per week.

Whole school events scattered across year: Christmas ‘dance off’, ‘Diva Night’ - soloists are accompanied by an orchestra made up of professional players and students, Easter house quiz, end of year musical - all rehearsed, directed and staged managed by pupils. Trips and visits include year 7 bonding, academic field trips; exciting maths visit to Disneyland Paris – working out trajectory of rollercoasters, art to Florence and ski trips.

Sport

‘We are all about mass participation,’ enthuses head of PE. Wherever possible new sports facilitated, suitable competition found or external opportunities sought to foster interest. Teams social as well as competitive. ‘We have some very talented sportspeople’ headmistress qualifies, but everyone can represent EHS.’ Fixtures provide raft of competition - teams selected accordingly.

‘We’re best known for swimming’ pupils tell us. School has 25m pool. Squad heading to ESSA finals at Olympic pool, London; lifeguarding scheme thriving. Qualified sixth formers teach younger pupils or attain qualification to coach swim squad. ‘Lots of galas’.

Netball is another strength - school hosted first round of U15 Birmingham Schools competition during our visit. ‘It’s a really high standard’ said head of PE. Number of the hockey team also play at county level.

Cricket growing. Twelve schools compete at famous local cricket grounds as ‘Lady Taverners.’ County coach brought in for competitive U13 and U15 teams. Head of PE instigating drive to unearth pupil achievement outside school following recent discovery of national archer and pupil with GB triathlon trials.

We witnessed excited departure of new tag rugby team. Head of PE relayed, ‘the girls decided they’d like to play a match, so we organised practice sessions and arranged opposition.’ Similarly, school joined with others to create basketball league.

Pitches on school site, a stroll from main campus. Three netball courts (nine tennis courts in summer), full size hockey pitch and 300m athletics track - all Astro and floodlit. Recently reoriented pavilion with changing facilities and kitchen overlooks pitches.

A parent grumbled that school has, ‘rather old fashioned “Ooh it looks a bit wet let’s not go out” attitude.’ Headmistress says this was true but pandemic has broken the habit - they now use every opportunity to face the elements - a change that is, ‘here to stay.’ She also acknowledges need for a sports hall - not imminent but being considered.

Pupils like relaxed approach, ‘you can have a go but if you’re no good it doesn’t matter.’ Parents offer a mixed response, some stating EHS is, ‘not that sporty’ others told us it’s ‘really competitive with other schools’ and praised ‘opportunities to try new things all the time.’ We presume differing opinions reflect breadth and depth of school’s sports portfolio. Head of PE keen to provide lifestyle opportunities for reluctant pupils to continue beyond school age.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1876, EHS is Birmingham’s oldest independent girls’ school. Leafy Edgbaston provides a surprisingly spacious plot for its clinical looking building with adjoining grounds. Reception narrow but atrium draws the eye upwards to glass corridors, reflecting ethos that everyone sets sights high.

Headmistress says, ‘We understand our place alongside grammars and other independents. We need a variety of schools so there is choice for everyone.’ Favouring single sex for girls, headmistress maintains EHS, with leadership team made up largely of women, ‘builds confidence and demonstrates women can be leaders.’ Parent whose daughter attended from age two told us, ‘for our money this school offers the complete education.’

Frustrated that EHS is regarded as less academic than local competition, a parent reflected, ‘Actually it’s because we are not just academic, but so much more. School has a spectrum of abilities yet still girls reach their full potential and achieve academically.’

‘Representative of Birmingham’s diverse culture’, parents embrace that EHS is non denominational - ‘It frees girls to to learn about other cultures and religions.’ Pupils encouraged to lead assemblies on their cultures or religions. ‘Yes, we sing hymns but about the planet or caring for one another.’ Headmistress unifies, ‘we may practice different religions but we are connected by humanity.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care woven into the fabric of EHS. Forty-three teachers have responsibility supported by 35 student mentors and a full-time counsellor. ‘I talk a lot about kindness,’ says headmistress, ‘school is not a knowledge shop but about being a citizen and part of a community.’ One parent praised, ‘they create the right environment to build confidence and realise potential academically and in other areas.’ Another opined, ‘I love the fact that sixth formers mentor the younger ones both academically and pastorally.’

Head of learning support sees, ‘stress and anxiety during remote learning resolving now school back together.’ Parents praise the set up, ‘they didn’t miss a beat. Every student and teacher knew what they were doing.’ Parents with children at other schools comment, ‘EHS were head and shoulders above local competition.’There have been positives; ‘Covid pushed use of technologically, propelling us forward by years,’ explains headmistress.

Transitions well managed. Tours, open days, taster sessions, meeting staff, buddy systems, joint assemblies with junior school, all help to foster familiarity.

Nearly three quarters of sixth form in leadership positions and 40 form leaders throughout senior school work together to appropriate change and encourage inclusive behaviours. A sixth former told us, ‘We all aim to be role models like Mrs Macro.’

Parents support the ‘Girls on Board’ programme school adopted to explore female friendship. Head of learning support qualified, ‘by openly discussing negative behaviours, cliques and power play with pupils and parents we can resolve situations early.’

Nevertheless bullying, of course, still happens. EHS is refreshingly up front. One parent said their experience was dealt with, ‘speedily.’ A girl told us about her experience and how, together with parents and teacher they decided she could change class. ‘It stopped everything’ and she is now, ‘really happy’.

Further demonstration of inclusivity illustrated by LGTBQ+ club formed by girls, who ‘welcome everyone’, whether curious, or for a ‘safe space’ to talk. Similarly, ethics forum takes ‘Question Time’ style debate, chaired by students. ‘Pupil Voice’ held termly inviting pupil feedback on curriculum, teaching and improvements. Parents say ‘there is a culture of being accepting.’

During tour, our delightful guide discussed her LAMDA presentation about the Everyone’s Invited website. Headmistress confirmed, ‘We work with students and pupil voice to discuss experiences in school and outside school gates.’ No mention from any parent or pupils of drugs, alcohol or smoking issues at school.

Head girl selected by interview, speech and online voting. During informal chats girls were keen to demonstrate the power they wield in school council. ‘Teachers want to hear what we want,’ they told us - recent celebration that pupil power enabled wearing of hoodies. Some however disgruntled by rules forbidding dyeing hair, wearing jewellery or leaving hair down (must be worn up until sixth form). ‘We are encouraged to be individuals but can’t express our individuality,’ one proffered. An old fashioned rule? We wonder whether pupil power will win out here.

Oft repeated criticism from parents was lack of social opportunities with boys. When asked, girls seemed unconcerned, ‘We have friendships and mix outside school.’ A pupil on senior prom committee told us they were debating a girls only event, ‘It’s more relaxed, we can just be ourselves.’

According to pupils anyone can tip up for a breakfast of croissants and hot chocolate - yes please. All meals prepared in house. Some comment that food, ‘runs out’ or, ‘not enough.’ Mrs Macro questioned, ‘Was it the food that had run out, or the choice?’ commenting that, ‘Roast Day Thursday’ brings a longer queue when sixth formers (who often bring their own lunch) are tempted to the dining room. She clarified, ‘choice may run out but food never does.’ In fact we were impressed by variety, from halal, to vegan and gluten free - pupils at our lunch table certainly appreciated it.

Tuck shop and frequent cake sales. Love of baked goods echoed by headmistress who often surprises student with pastries. ‘Mrs Macro brought us croissants because we were doing GCSEs,’ said a pupil - ‘Oh!’ chorused a number, ‘She brought us some too after our gala!’

Pupils and parents

‘More often than not both parents work,’ we were told, mainly professionals or local business. Active parents’ association’ and WhatsApp groups, although parents stress, ‘you can be involved - or not - as you like.’

Parents say girls are ‘personable’, ‘well mannered’, ‘happy’, ‘down to earth’ and, ‘articulate opinions well.’ Another liked that, ‘Sport, art or academics - it’s all seen as equal achievement; they work hard across the board - there’s an expectation.’

Pupils like ‘connection with other years’, ‘clubs run by sixth form’, ‘being given a lot of responsibility’ and that ‘there’s always someone to talk to.’ Some travel over an hour and a half whether on public transport, school bus or by car.

Money matters

Scholarships offered in senior school at 11+ and 16+. Means tested bursaries available.

The last word

A strong pastoral thread weaves seamlessly through every aspect of life at EHS. It draws together a rich tapestry of personal achievement in academia, sport, arts, extra-curricular, enrichment and friendship. An overwhelming sense that anything is possible, girls are imbued with confidence, ambition and a willingness to ‘give it a go’.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

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

Who came from where


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