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Science is very popular, young and dynamic rather than geeky – the worktops in the revamped labs wouldn’t look out of place in a kitchen showroom in Hove. Each sixth former has her own tray of instruments and test-tubes, encouraging responsibility and continuity. The pleasant walk to the courts in St Ann’s Well Garden is enjoyed by tennis players, girls are minibussed to Brighton Swimming Centre to swim, and the fitness studio is hugely popular. Main hall, used for two assemblies each week and performances, has retractable seating – when we visited, a vicar had just given a thoughtful address...

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What the school says...

For Prep School applications your daughter will be invited in for a Taster Day and assessment which is designed to look for potential. We have teacher-led informal assessments for entry into Reception - Year 2 and short assessments for Years 3 - 6 in Verbal Reasoning, Maths and Comprehension.

Entry for the High School is as follows: age 11 - Maths, English & VR; age 12+ - Maths, English, Science and French (if already studied); age 16 - Minimum of 5 A-Cs (including English Language & Maths) with A/Bs in subjects to be pursued; an interview is also included.

Scholarships and bursaries available at all ages.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

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.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2012, Jennifer Smith MA MEd (50s), in post for the long haul after a series of two-to-three year predecessors. An engaging and sensible Glaswegian, she spent the previous 10 years rising to deputy head at Wilson’s, a state funded selective all boys school in Sutton. She still commutes south from there, her husband goes north to his headship in London. Attracted to her first headship by GDST values. ‘It’s about building resilience in girls’ learning and confidence, while also very important to give value for money. My main aim is for each girl to know that we care for her and about her progress.’

Earlier challenges include five years as a head of English at an all boys grammar in her late 20s (and the first years of GCSEs) and a vital role in the turnaround of the ranking of Wilson’s results. She uses her daily train journey to Brighton to blog for the school website – part of the ‘technical explosion’ she spearheaded in her first year, with a new online portal and online reporting. She doesn’t teach the timetable at present, but does cover lessons, watches teaching and does duty in the canteen, using that time to hear suggestions from the students – and act on them eg new transparency in the behaviour system and a consistent ‘tariff of discipline’.

Academic matters

Academic results strong with 76 per cent A*-B grades at A level, 49 per cent A*/A, and 60 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades at GCSE in 2018; dedicated staff passionate about their subjects. Bright, stimulating, independently minded, confident girls – a description approved by parents, staff and the local general public. Pupils are very conscientious and pile the pressure on themselves, but are encouraged to progress as individuals. Parents wonder at the results without overt peer rivalry – they feel it is extremely supportive, all of BHHS want everyone to succeed.

Touchscreens or interactive whiteboards in practically every classroom, both of which enable and encourage pupils to share centre stage with teachers. Pupils say the use of these and the online portal with past papers and learning tools really simplify catching up on classes and revision. Assessments for dyslexia and dyscalculia provided by the school and support for moderate cases via the SENCo team. Online reporting should now ensure that a diagnosis of dyslexia is attached to pupils through all subjects; in the past communication about the need for extra support has broken down.

Science is very popular, young and dynamic rather than geeky – the worktops in the revamped labs wouldn’t look out of place in a kitchen showroom in Hove. Each sixth former has her own tray of instruments and test-tubes, encouraging responsibility and continuity. Latin is taught all the way through, along with a choice of French or Spanish, while maths and English are also strong with great use of external resources, whether it is a Cipher Challenge, guest author or theatre visit. The combined alumni of the GDST help to encourage aspirational and concrete links with world outside lessons, the pupils are busy and keen on learning, aware that their choice of single-sex education may already have given them a leg up.

Careers programme impressive with close links with the local careers service and employers, free psychometric testing in year 11 and the school organises work experience at the end of that year too. There are enterprise activities in all years, the Temple Project Qualification (the school’s version of an Extended Project Qualification) and an intensive programme of visiting speakers, all of which apparently makes writing your personal statement for university application easy, although it may take you until then to realise that all these experiences are rounding out your character…

Sixth form has the biggest space in the whole school – although the numbers are small at present. This means very focused teaching and a real family atmosphere for those that stay, with plenty of experience coaching and mentoring the younger girls. Traditionally over half leave, many to the range of great (free) six form colleges around Brighton where there are more A level choices on offer externally eg media studies and vocational ones. Many BHHS girls have been there since the age of 3 or 4, so are keen to spread their social wings and learn with boys, although some regret leaving when their A level results are not so impressive as those who remain. Ex-students, with their male friends, can pop (and sign) in to visit the sixth form centre from the nearest college, BHASVIC.

Games, options, the arts

Great modern sports hall with disabled access and the normal rainbow of court lines, layered nets and trampolines, also two outdoor netball courts and Astroturf at the junior school. Netball and athletics are the most successful teams, but the track record is spread like the matches between independent and state sector opponents. Sport is good but it wouldn’t be the reason to come to this school. The pleasant walk to the courts in St Ann’s Well Garden is enjoyed by tennis players, girls are minibussed to Brighton Swimming Centre to swim, and the fitness studio is hugely popular – especially with the sixth form. However, the dance studio next to it appeals across all years, with one mirrored and one glass wall and all dancers with their eyes on the highlight of the year, a performance in a central Brighton venue. Drama also well taught in dedicated studio with professional lights and mixing desk, which doubles as make up and dressing room in the whole school productions.

Art department is beloved and productive – a microcosm of the ideal atmosphere of the school where teachers listen to individuals and then encourage each one to stretch themselves beyond their own expectations. ‘It doesn’t feel like a lesson, the teachers let you decide.’ Officially it occupies two floors in a separate building with a darkroom and a Mac for photography (at A level) but the students’ work is placed all over the school, is changed regularly and entices visitors to follow it to the source. Design technology also impressive with great use of acrylics and projects that range from concept to marketing. Likewise, home economics projects are all-encompassing eg tasty biscuits in enticing packaging and a level 2 food hygiene award – very useful for a summer job in a café.

The music house has been revamped. Full range of peripatetics, three choirs, two orchestras and a jazz band – as well as a biennial school musical – and packed performances. Also hosts Springboard, the Brighton and Hove Performing Arts festival. Performances of all kinds in assembly, old people’s homes and whole school shows and strong emphasis on music technology.

Background and atmosphere

The original building (the Temple) became part of the GDST schools in 1880 - still central to the site, with pillars said to represent inverted cannons. Cluster of contemporary extensions spread out from this, wonderful height and light in the science block, other subjects spread between new and old buildings. Year 9 has a separate block near the netball courts and the sixth form centre and canteen are over a (narrow) public road from the main house. Main hall, used for two assemblies each week and performances, has retractable seating – when we visited, a vicar had just given a thoughtful address; apparently she has to be good since there are a fair few sceptics in the student body.

Main library is peaceful, with high ceilings – sixth formers can work there or in their own centre, computer access to the online portal as well as shelves of books. Sixth formers are allowed phones but the younger ones are not allowed to use theirs during the day – it is a busy site, so there wouldn’t be much chance in the five minutes when the girls flood the corridors and stairs between lessons, racing back to the basement locker room to get more books or their sports kit. Uniform for the younger years, with small earrings and no bracelets – sixth formers can wear what they like.

A strong ethos of charitable giving with a Guild collection every Wednesday, where pennies are collected by reps in each form room. This all adds up and is given to two chosen charities per year. The charities are pitched by the girls at an assembly, so almost always have a personal motivation behind them, and the students use all their initiative to raise funds through other events eg a fashion show.

School council is also influential, with suggestions and complaints fed up through reps in each form. The same system operates in the GDST as a whole, so a case for change in BHHS would be pitched by a student rep to the GDST governors. Food is locally sourced and now cooked in house, salad option and no packed lunches.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Strong pastoral support system with form teachers and sixth form tutors and year heads – set up for easy communication and accessibility. A mentoring service for younger girls – BLOBs – is an old acronym for Best Listeners of Brighton Schools. This really works, and is made easy by the amount of inter-year, inter-house contact through drama, sport competitions and end-of-year entertainment. Imaginative PSHE – we have encountered this in other GDST schools: the special events and whole days given over to topical issues all help to raise awareness and assist pupils with self-expression on current affairs.

School nurse on site, at the heart of the school near the basement locker room – parents and girls really value that common sense support; it eliminates the drama from long-term health conditions. Families really appreciate the frequent personal letters home from the head celebrating individual achievements. At the other end of the spectrum, some parents talk of bullying not dealt with swiftly enough in the past; however, the head appears to have it under control.

Students see themselves as a recognisable type, ‘a BHHS girl through and through’ – plenty of room for spirited girls but everyone is aware of the opportunities that the school gives them, so they are ambitious, organised and self-motivated. The head girl team is an example of the way cooperation and communication is fostered within the school – and links to organisations outside it.

Pupils and parents

From Hove, Brighton, Pulborough, Eastbourne, Worthing, etc. Buses from Saltdean, Worthing and Lewes. A real social and ethnic mix – artists, creative industries, investment bankers, teachers – and, due to competitive fees, a good economic mix. Busy parents, both normally working to afford the fees, or taking some help from grandparents.

OGs Karen Pickering MBE, Olympic swimming gold medallist, Claire Hicks MBE, director of Impact Foundation, businesswoman Heidi Cooper, several recent University Challenge competitors.


At 11+ from a wide range of local maintained and independent schools and also the junior school. A recent rise in the intake at year 7 is hoped to swell the sixth form numbers. GDST entrance assessment for the main school – selective, but not super selective. Entry at sixth form requires five GCSEs at 5 grade or above, with 9-6 in subjects to be taken at A level; girls come from The Towers, Warden Park, Shoreham College.


Some 70+ per cent leaves post-GCSE, often for the sixth form college (less than half a mile away) BHASVIC – the very wide of subjects and boys in the classes are enticing and often it is a financial decision for the families. Recent university destinations include UEA, Oxbridge (two in 2018, plus three medics), Royal Holloway, Bristol, Brunel, Dundee, Imperial College and Belfast.

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries at year 7 normally awarded in rank order of performance in the entrance exam (50-100 per cent of fees); academic and music scholarships (10 per cent of fees) also available, plus Temple scholarships for all-round performance. More bursaries at year 12 and also another eight scholarships (10 to 30 per cent discount).

Our view

Parents say it produces empowered, confident, clever girls – but not cocky ones – ‘education rather than status’. Has suffered in the past through comparison to its noisy neighbour, Brighton College, both by staff and onlookers - now hopefully in an era where it is certain of its own value and ethos, with individual encouragement producing fantastic results and grounded girls.

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.

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