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Girls rarely abuse the freedom they have to go into Salisbury attend socials with other schools, or entertain guests in the sixth form. ‘Staff seem to care as much as I do’, one parent commented. There is a real buzz of enthusiasm from girls and teachers with excitement that geology is now on-stream as an A level. One hockey lover’s parent commented that perhaps it came second best to lacrosse, but acknowledged that...


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What the school says...

Godolphin was founded almost 300 years ago by Elizabeth Godolphin who wanted to empower girls to be independent, and that is still at the heart of what the school does today. Girls are encouraged to be individuals and are supported pastorally, academically and through the cocurricular programme. Godolphin is particularly proud of its value added results, which are above the national average. The school offers a combination of full and weekly boarding, as well as a day option. ...Read more

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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.

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Since 2014, Emma Hattersley, previously deputy head, pastoral, at Sherborne Girls, before which she was a housemistress at Canford School. Mrs Hattersley trained as an opera singer at the Royal Academy of Music and has a music degree from Durham. Married with three children, she says she took her career break early so that now, in her early 50s, with her children pursuing their own careers, she is able to devote her time entirely to Godolphin. Her actor husband is immensely supportive, to the extent of running ‘speakeasy’ communications and other workshops in school.

Her calm, unthreatening exterior deceptively understates the determination beneath. Since arriving at Godolphin she says she has identified needs for brightening up areas of the fabric, developing staff and increasing opportunities for charitable activities. In fact she has already started on a programme of new showers, ‘nice enough to make the girls feel good’, surveyed parents of all leavers, consulted girls and produced her vision document for the future. She has also initiated the Elizabeth Godolphin Award for sixth formers, which gives focus to a programme of self-development and preparedness for work/life demands.

She says she believes in the Godolphin ethos: happiness, warmth, development which is aspirational but ‘absolutely not at the expense of well-being’. ‘We are not a hothouse’ she says, but aim at ‘the best we can possibly be in each girl’s own style, celebrating diverse talent’ and encouraging everyone to ‘succeed at the level right for them’. Having taken on a school a little stunned by losing its new head to ‘higher things’ after three years, she has restored confidence and won parents’ and girls’ respect with her ability to perceive and develop what is best at Godolphin. A parent commented that ‘under Mrs Hattersley staff can really develop their own teaching and pastoral skills.’


Godolphin has a bespoke Assessment which students will be invited to complete approximately 12 months prior to entry. These Assessments are tailored to specific entry points at 11+, 13+ and 16+.

At 11+, 12+, 13+ and sixth form, with 'snapshot' mornings running throughout the year. Registered 11+ pupils invited for a preview day in the autumn term, before taking entrance exams in the spring term. Uses its own 11+ entrance test – maths, English and verbal reasoning, plus interview and team building exercises. Organises its own 13+ assessments 18 months prior to entry (13+ CE only used for setting purposes).


Around 80 per cent to a variety of universities, over 60 per cent of them to Russell Group. Exeter, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh and Bristol all popular. Two to Oxbridge in 2019. Odd ones overseas. Plenty of art related courses.

Teaching and learning

Definitely academic, with Latin up to A level and Greek on offer, though not taken up much for exams. Spanish, German and French also on offer though with a few following through to A level. Spectacular results in maths and art at both A level and GCSE. In 2019, 39 per cent A*/A at A level and 57 per cent A*-B. At GCSE, 50 per cent of grades were 9-7.

French, German, Spanish and Latin taught from first year with Mandarin via a club. All available up to A level except currently Latin, and classical Greek done at GCSE via an ‘Academic Society’, Girls do either double award science or three individual subjects. The usual subjects are offered plus PE, design and food technology, economics, business studies and drama. Godolphin will put on an A level course for one or two students if necessary, so there’s not much you can’t do, and options are designed round each girl’s requests every year. There is a real buzz of enthusiasm from girls and teachers with excitement that geology is now on-stream as an A level. Parents are enthusiastic about the level of encouragement and individual attention given by teachers. One commented that teachers support girls’ particular interests by finding articles and information for them even if it is outside the curriculum. Able girls enjoy events put on by the scholars and Alpinists (Accelerated Learning Programme) activities, though sometimes the compulsory ones are ‘a bit groan-worthy’. Girls say most are really interesting and attract lots of non-scholars too. The REBEL (Recreational Enhancement for Bright Energetic Learners) scheme provides appreciated stimulus for year 9.

The few SEN students have plenty of help organised by SENCo/ed psych much praised by parents. Help is one-to-one, in groups, or takes the form of advice to teachers about learning styles of individuals. EAL is managed by SEN department – up to three lessons a week if necessary. Not many pupils need support, but advice to teachers is available from occupational therapist and maths specialist. Godolphin can cope with mild Asperger’s. Healthy, friendly respect and affection between teachers and girls abundantly evident.


Art has a huge and impressive building bursting with stunning work in every medium and hugely talented and enthusiastic staff. Very professional looking fabric design work on display as well as fascinating mixed media landscape work and spectacular studies based on work done in the cathedral. Two spacious studios for drawing/painting, with separate rooms dedicated to textiles, ceramics, photography and 3D; another smaller room full of iMacs for graphic design. This a truly brilliant department, making creative use of visits to and by local artists, who regularly initiate GCSE projects, and welcoming parents and visitors to view two floors of really breathtakingly exciting work – smashing results too. DT is no less impressive, with lots of colourful and innovative constructions in wood and plastic on display. It’s not surprising academically gifted girls take up art or history of art here and a record number go on to art related courses at uni.

An attractive rotunda houses the performing arts centre with lovely in-the-round theatre, plenty of entertaining space and good practice rooms. Music is very well served, with the head running a popular junior orchestra of girls from prep and senior schools, a head of music who is as encouraging as he is talented, and the meticulous Mrs Sparkhall, who inspires the girls in a choral tradition that wins them the Barnardo’s School Choir of the Year and other accolades. Individual lessons still in the unprepossessing and unreconstructed Rose Villa, but pupils and parents don’t seem to mind and there’s plenty of chamber music, though not much evidence of pop...

All the creative forces come together in drama, typified by recent Oklahoma – spectacular and full of home-grown music and dance. Girls also perform with Portal Theatre, a small, professionally run theatre group. Masses of LAMDA exams and smaller performances.

Lacrosse dominates amongst a total of 90 different teams covering all the usual girls’ winter and summer sports. Netball actually fields 23 teams and tennis 14, as well as teams in all the major girls' school sports – quite a feat for a smallish school. All sports reach a pretty high level considering the school’s size, swimming aided by a sleek 25 metre indoor pool. Highly competitive equestrian stars, and lacrosse and netball high fliers get to county and regional teams. Achievements include U13 netball team winning county championships and one girl selected for England U18 lacrosse squad and one for Wales. One hockey lover’s parent commented that perhaps it came second best to lacrosse, but acknowledged that there is plenty of opportunity, even so. No lack of outdoor and other related activities. One girl reported enthusiastically on taking part in the Dartmoor Ten Tors expedition after thorough training through CCF (quite unusual in a girls’ school).


Girls can start boarding from 7 or 8 in the prep, when they join the junior house, Cooper. Boarding is about as flexi as it goes, with everything from full time to weekly to flexi (one or more nights per week). One parent commented that though full boarding had been ideal for her daughter because they were not too far away, it tends to focus a bit much on activities for foreign students. Current flexibility is dependent on there being some beds available.

Accommodation is simple, modern and not unnaturally tidy, with Walter House now home to girls aged between 11 and 16 and School House dedicated accommodation for sixth formers. Complete refurbishment of boarding is still in progress; study bedrooms are comfortably spacious with plenty of storage and common areas.

Shared dining hall adjoins junior and senior houses. Sixth form house has its own dining room, kitchen, study areas, often with staff at hand, careers advice and leisure space with a proper Café Aroma serving the obligatory coffee shop range of expresso etc. Health provision is supervised by the indomitable Sister Gill, who creates an aura of calm, unfussy friendliness much appreciated by all.

Ethos and heritage

Unusually for a girls’ school Godolphin has a long history, dating from a bequest made in 1726 by Elizabeth Godolphin, eventually resulting in the establishment in the cathedral close of a school for ‘eight orphaned gentlewomen’ who followed a remarkably enlightened curriculum for their day. It moved to its present 16 acre site in Milford Hill in 1891, retaining its links with the cathedral, with the bishop and chapter still represented on the governing body. Skilful use of space and the site still has a gracious feel, generated by the mellow red brick of the original building and the lovely open grass pitches with views of the downs enhanced by banks of lavender at the time of our visit. One has to look quite hard to find the few scruffy corners that Mrs Hattersley is determined to clear. The huge gothic school hall has the dusty feel (it certainly isn’t, as the school is exceptionally clean and fresh) which old wood, high ceilings and portraits of ex-heads inevitably evoke. Road access is made awkward by several right-angled bends in the road, but efficient planning of parking helps, though parents report it can still be a bit of a maelstrom at pick up time.

Uniform is unremarkable: pale blue shirt, plaid skirt and navy blazer enhanced by stylish boater with crested red ribbons, known as a ‘board’. All, however, is concealed by coverall old fashioned pinafores in royal blue for seniors (except sixth who wear own clothes, plus suits for going to the cathedral), red for preps and gingham for nursery. Oddly, girls seem to like this antiquated touch, while one parent attributed the school’s exceptionally friendly and unthreatening atmosphere to the fact that no ultra-trendy girl would be seen dead wearing one. This is certainly a school where those who have been bullied elsewhere find general acceptance and support. An exceptionally happy place with few exclusive ‘in groups’, where the occasional ‘falling out’ is sympathetically dealt with by friendly staff, evidently liked and trusted by pupils. With its historic cathedral links, this is an overtly Christian school with a chaplain, using the cathedral for services and confirmation, though one parent regretted that it had to be on a Thursday to ensure parent availability.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care is delivered to day girls - known as ‘Sarums’ - and boarders together through the residential houses, which all have provision for day girls and welcome them to work and relax with the boarders. Lessons end at 4pm, but the myriad of school activities and prep run in three sessions after tea. School houses involve all ages from nursery to sixth form for competitions, fundraising and social events. Personal development is delivered in the PERSIL programme (another quirky Godolphin acronym representing Personal, Ethical, Religious and Social Issues in Life). In the sixth form the Elizabeth Godolphin Award encourages activities aimed at preparation for life after school. Truly all-embracing, it includes Prue Leith cookery (expensive), banking and finance, with car maintenance, emotional literacy, women’s boot camp and dawn visits to Stonehenge all part of the bigger picture.

Firm, friendly, no-nonsense discipline leads to an atmosphere in which girls and teachers are at home with each other. The best is expected of everyone. Rules are few but clearly stated, and parents say problems such as drugs, smoking or alcohol are ‘simply not part of the culture’. Girls rarely abuse the freedom they have to go into Salisbury attend socials with other schools, or entertain guests in the sixth form. ‘Staff seem to care as much as I do’, one parent commented.

Pupils and parents

Mostly middle class with a total of about 14 per cent international students, mainly from the Far East. Not a ‘toff’ school, though pupils are not averse to joining up with Eton and Winchester for social events. Huge day catchment area has bus routes from every direction. In an area with ambitious state schools, art and music still attract pupils, as does the excellent pastoral care. Parents are pleased at how open pupils seem, speaking easily to adults and confident in public, but also that younger ones still behave like children.

Past pupils (with houses named after them) include the full spectrum of women writers, Jilly Cooper, Minette Walters and Dorothy Sayers as well as prolific novelist Amanda Brookfield. TV personalities include Dragon’s Den businesswoman Deborah Meaden, Katie Knapman of Countryfile, presenters Helen Bishop and Louise Beale, sportswoman Ruby Smith, yachtswomen Hannah White and Nicola Rodriguez as well actress Charlotte Longfield.

Money matters

Scholarships at 11+ and 13+ for outstanding merit or promise in academic work, music, sport or art. Awards are worth 15 per cent of boarding or day fees. In sixth form, scholarships awarded for all of the above plus drama. Additional bursaries may be awarded to scholars in case of financial hardship. Six Foundation Bursaries (worth 70 per cent) are offered to orphans in need of financial support, when one parent has died or whose parents are separated or divorced. An Old Godolphin Association Bursary (25 per cent) is occasionally available to the daughter or granddaughter of a former pupil at the school. Entrance bursaries are available to all eligible candidates (including at 14+) in order of registration – so it may pay to get in early.

The last word

It seems an idyllic school, almost too good to be true, and there is no doubt that it offers the very best of single sex education. For all its gentleness and Railway Children look, teaching is tip-top, especially now a real effort has gone into IT. Art and music are about as good as you can get and drama and games exceptional for a small school. Girls can really be themselves and the eccentric and the sociable are equally accepted. A very special place to grow up in.

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

Godolphin aims to support all its pupils in effective learning. The special needs policy is broadly inclusive and our learning support department is an integral and integrated part of the school. We recognise that some pupils may need additional support at times during their academic career and others who have a SpLD are catered for throughout their education. Communication between pupil, teachers and school is a vital part of its philosophy. Access Arrangements for GCSE and A Levels are assessed internally to ensure each student’s individual ‘evidence of need’ is met and documented throughout each department.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where

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