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‘Teaching is dynamic and exciting and not all done the same way here,’ says principal. ‘It’s creative because we don’t want to bore children.’ Judging by the bright-eyed, smiley and engaged students we met, this is far from the case, and parents are happy – ‘our son, a scholar, has felt stimulated and challenged,’ says one. ‘The teachers are passionate about what they do and this rubs off on the children.’...

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What the school says...

The exceptional pastoral care, combined with excellent academic provision makes New Hall very special. We focus on the individual, ensuring that each person fulfills his or her potential academically, creatively and socially.

A Catholic Foundation, faith lies at the heart of this foundation and remains essential to the character of the school today. A sense of responsibility and a spirit of service to others is fostered through it's award-winning and nationally recognised organisation the New Hall Voluntary Service.

New Hall operates the Diamond structure: a Co-Educational Preparatory Division (3-11), Boys Division (11-16), Girls Division (11-16) and Co-Educational Sixth Form. Girls and Boys between the ages of 11-16 are educated in a single-sex classes but with the benefit of a mixed environment.

Founded in 1642, New Hall is one of the oldest Catholic schools in England. The campus offers exceptional facilities including a beautiful Chapel, 25m 6-Lane swimming pool, a National standard running track & floodlit Astroturf, the Walkfares Performing Arts Centre, excellent boarding accommodation, and a new Technology Centre. The co-educational Preparatory Division and Pre-Reception are situated on the same 85 acre campus as the Senior School.

We pride ourselves on being a community which allows each individual to flourish and become confident and happy young adults.
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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2001, Katherine Jeffrey MA PGCE MA (EdMg) NPQH. Previously an RE teacher at St Mary’s School, Shaftesbury, head of RE at Woldingham School and deputy head at The Marist School, Ascot before coming to New Hall as its first ever lay principal and teacher of theology. Now the longest-serving head at the same HMC school. She is also executive head of New Hall’s Multi-Academy Trust. Awarded the Institute of Directors’ East of England Businesswoman of the Year Award, followed by a national Independent Schools Award for Outstanding Strategic Initiative and the TES Overall School of the Year. She has been a committee member of the Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference and a governor of St Mary’s School, Hampstead. She is currently a director of The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly, and a member of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ). Married with four daughters – all educated at New Hall School.

Making the change from dyed-in-the-wool Catholic convent girls’ boarding school of variable academic results to one of the UK’s most successful examples of the ‘diamond model’ (co-educational nursery and prep school, single-sex teaching for ages 11 to 16, returning to co-education for the sixth form) took her a speedy five years near the start of her tenure, and she has continued at a cracking pace of change which has touched every part of the school. The driving force behind New Hall’s outreach move to sponsor maintained primary schools, her outreach extends to the local community. New Hall received national commendation as the first independent school to sponsor a primary academy, rescuing it from special measures, a falling roll and near closure; today Messing Primary School is an oversubscribed primary school, praised in its inspections for outstanding leadership and governance and the quality of education.

‘Mrs Jeffrey moves with - and often ahead of - the times,’ observes a parent, while others describe her as ‘a calm professional’, ‘intelligent’, ‘approachable’ and ‘dedicated to the all-round development of the children in her school’. Adds one, ‘from the principal to the division heads, subject heads and all other departmental leaders, the picture is one of focus and cohesion’. Her energy for education and for providing a continually evolving and diverse range of educational and co-curricular opportunities is clear, and New Hall is now a veritable village, with everything students could need for a rounded education under one patch of sky.

‘We now make much more use of our 70 acres of grade one listed parkland,’ she told us. ‘Students are discovering parts of the site they hadn’t really been to before.’ As well as being one of the largest all-through independent schools in the country with a current roll of 1,400 and rising, a stated aim is to be one of the most affordable, having reduced fees by six per cent in September 2020 after several freezes in preceding years. ‘There’s no compromise on quality,’ she emphasises, ‘in fact the scale works in our favour and gives us even more opportunity to open our students’ hearts and minds and to prepare them for a full and active life in the future.’

Entrance

Year 7 has 120 places – usually three times oversubscribed. Around 40 pupils come up from New Hall’s own year 6 and have priority, although they too must go through the same entry procedure as external applicants – papers in English, maths and verbal reasoning plus an interview and report from the previous school. Unusually, keen parents are encouraged to write to the head to put their case for their child’s suitability the school. Lengthy admissions preamble – families tend to visit for at least one open day as well as a group tour before beginning the formal application. Lower sixth has 150 places, with new entrants needing two 7s and four 6s at GCSE to be in with a whiff. ‘Our A level classes are very fast-paced,’ says principal, ‘with pupils aiming for A* to B grades.’

Exit

Around a quarter leaves after GCSEs and there is a large external intake at sixth form, many from grammar schools and other independent schools. Around two thirds of the sixth form to Russell Group. Durham, Warwick, Exeter, UCL and Nottingham currently popular. Each year a number of students also progress to medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine (seven in 2021) and law courses. Also, places are won regularly for top conservatoires and art schools. One to Oxbridge in 2021.

Latest results

In 2021, 79 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 75 per cent A*/A at A level (97 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 51 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 51 per cent A*/A at A level (84 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Interestingly, the genders at New Hall are on a par results-wise at GCSE, bucking the national trend for boys to fall behind by 10 per cent. More grist to the mill of the ‘diamond model’, allowing the teaching between 11 and 16 to be tailored to gender-specific learning styles, with co-ed lessons in the prep and sixth form.

French and Spanish are taught from Year 7 through a newly re-developed curriculum centred around the DELF and DELE language diplomas. These allow all students to gain a recognised language qualification and the programme is focused on developing students’ confidence in communication. Theology compulsory up to Year 11. Computer science and Latin also taught to all students in Years 7, 8 and 9. In Year 9, students may begin ancient Greek. Theology, English, maths and science compulsory GCSEs, alongside a choice of up to four optional subjects. Most choose three option subjects leading to 9 or 10 GCSEs and also take the level 2 project qualification. Top students achieve 12 GCSEs. Students in all years also follow a tutorial programme including ‘life skills’ and careers education as well as sports.

‘Teaching is dynamic and exciting and not all done the same way here,’ says principal. ‘It’s creative because we don’t want to bore children.’ Judging by the bright-eyed, smiley and engaged students we met, she's right, and parents are happy – ‘our son, a scholar, has felt stimulated and challenged,’ says one. ‘The teachers are passionate about what they do and this rubs off on the children.’

Sixth form is ‘diverse and exciting’ say parents, and currently with 250 students, but earmarked for expansion and already with a strong external intake. ‘We are very keen to keep going with subjects that are hard and have smaller numbers,’ confirms principal. ‘It’s so important at A level that students study the subjects they want to study.’ This means ancient Greek and Latin classes run even if for a class of just one. Music, psychology, economics and business studies are popular, and this is one of the largest centres in the country for A levels in government and politics and theology, with 80-plus in sixth form choosing each. HPQ and EPQ also on offer. Careers service keeps tabs and offers a breadth of suggestions. Guidance throughout is a strength say parents, who appreciate the ‘highly personalised approach’ - students of varying abilities work together at their own levels while ‘maintaining an amazing sense of harmony and inclusivity’.

Learning support and SEN

All staff are trained in differentiation, and the gifted and talented benefit from accelerated learning in lessons and encouragement to find stretch in enrichment opportunities. Academic societies promote scholarly habits (including ‘challenge’, ‘persistence and big picture thinking’, ‘intellectual courage’ and ‘metathinking’), and prepare around 20 each year with sights set on Oxbridge.

‘I say to parents “please don’t worry for a second if your child has dyslexia, dyscalculia or ADHD – we might be the perfect school for you”,’ says principal. Indeed, one parent told of being shown around the school by a girl who spoke of her dyslexia as if she had been chosen for the hockey team. ‘It’s a culture here,’ emphasises principal, ‘SEND is not a negative thing.’ School also has a good track record for children who lack confidence, thanks to the homely atmosphere and the focus on finding something at which children can flourish.

The arts and extracurricular

‘Our co-curricular programme is not an add-on,’ emphasises principal. One of the few occasions we’ve come across a choir that’s compulsory – year 7 boys and girls enjoy or endure a year before being given the option to remain. ‘We have discovered some great voices that way – people who wouldn’t have put themselves forward,’ says head of music. Choice of choirs for those inclined, including Voces for the broken-voiced, plus instrumental ensembles of all kinds and the occasional rock and pop band. Organ lessons on the restored Norman & Beard organ in the school chapel. Many informal as well as the formal performances. Music remains a popular option at GCSE and A level.

Drama and dance a speciality, with the school’s Walkfares Centre the venue for all performing arts activity. Annual dance show is a highlight and dance A level popular. Own dance company takes students from year 10 upwards and crosses over with the local community. ESB and LAMDA thrive. Around 30 a year take art A level – working away in a warren of atelier-style studios – and about a third continue beyond, though architecture tends to win out over fine art.

In keeping with the school’s focus on community and charity, all pupils heavily involved with the New Hall Voluntary Service, which for many becomes a way of life. Tea parties, lunches and concerts hosted for local groups at the school’s own chaplaincy centre, and some students work with sponsored primary school. The Good Hope coffee shop is housed in a friendly wooden lodge in the grounds and serves coffee, cake and panini to sixth formers and staff, with proceeds to a Catholic charity (previously For Jimmy) that supports young people at risk of being drawn into gang culture.

Eight houses – unrelated to the boarding houses – contest in competitions of all hues and there is a clear joy among the students for participation. When the 2020 prom was cancelled, the replacement event on campus was preceded by a cavalcade of the school’s golf buggies, festooned with decorations, which were driven on a tour of the school grounds by prom-outfitted former sixth formers.

Sport

Sport is taken very seriously. Hockey now a major sport for boys as well as girls. Girls’ rugby up and running. Cricket for all. All sports available to everyone. Income has been ploughed into facilities – sleek, purpose-built gymnasium block stuffed with cardio machines and weights overlooks a sweep of sports pitches (several floodlit), 10 courts for netball or tennis, 400-metre cinder running track and chlorine-free pool in its own block with changing room facilities (also used by the Essex swim squad). A former equestrian arena is now an indoor sports hall with state-of-the-art flooring, while the many horse-related activities take place off-site. New grass-roofed building accommodates rugby changing rooms; one for tennis too, complete with a pavilion.

Pro coaches complement the PE staff, now numbering a former England golfer, who, as well as presiding over the state-of the-art 12-bay golf driving range, demonstrated his versatility during our visit by focusing the wandering attention of a group of hopping youngsters on the task of dribbling a hockey ball on the Astro.

New Hall provides county and national athletes in many disciplines, including UK independent school golf and equestrian champions, not to mention star swimmers, cricketers, tennis, hockey and rugby players. A New Hallian athlete competed in the last Commonwealth Games.

Boarders

Cream sofas? Cushions? Can this be a boarding house for 7 to 13 year old boys? Quite apart from Petre House’s jaw-droppingly ornate cornicing and mouldings worthy of a royal palace, the place is spotless in the face of a most unforgiving neutrally toned décor. The dorms too are a revelation – all belongings stowed neatly into storage compartments hiding behind the ladder treads of ingenious high-sleeper beds, designed by a former New Hallian head of boarding and incorporating a study space underneath. Magdalen Wing in Hawley House, for girls in years 3-8, is more the usual fayre – though rooms for ones and twos rather than the multiples for boys (full boarders usually roomed with the flexi boarders) – and a comfortable lived-in look with cheery interior design scheme chosen by the girls themselves. Four other houses – two for boys and two for girls as they progress through the school – accommodating a third of each year group, who board on a flexi, weekly or full-time basis. Up to 16 reserved places for junior (full and weekly) boarders from year 3 onwards. An influx of weekly boarders from London and across East Anglia anticipated to coincide with the opening of the new mainline railway station at the end of the school’s drive, scheduled for 2025.

Ethos and heritage

The original Palace of Beaulieu, ancestral home of the Boleyn family and thought to represent much of the attraction to King Henry VIII of his second wife (beheaded), perhaps with good reason. Henry expanded the existing building to create a most imposing and gargantuan edifice, with eight courtyards behind a 550-foot wide red-brick frontage and two enormous gatehouse towers, apparently the inspiration for Hampton Court Palace. Channel 4’s Time Team dug up evidence of the foundations of what was identified as a nursery for Henry’s first-born, Princess Mary. Having passed through a few hands (including those of Oliver Cromwell) after Henry’s demise, in 1799 the palace became occupied by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most ancient orders in the Catholic church, established in Europe long before the English Religious Community was founded in 1642. Forced out of their home in the Low Countries by the French Revolutionary Wars, the Canonesses brought their school to the Palace of Beaulieu with the intention of offering a Catholic education to girls denied this in England in the post-Reformation period. Thus, New Hall is the oldest Catholic girls’ school in England.

Today’s New Hall is (in terms of footprint at least) a fraction of Henry’s pile, but breath-taking nonetheless and approached via a mile-long avenue at the end of which one fully expects a National Trust ticket booth to appear. Perhaps one of the most impressive interiors is the chapel, with its original solid wood door and Henry VIII’s coat of arms over the main entrance.

Behind the long façade of the main building, which houses an impressive entrance hall with tastefully interior designed waiting room, the chapel, classrooms and a boarding house, there is a dedicated performing arts block incorporating three large studio spaces (which host the school’s popular Saturday dance and drama schools as well as lessons throughout the week). New science centre on the drawing board. The Eaton Theatre seats 210 and is used for productions as well as lectures and year meetings. Large library with study area for all-comers and hanging with Apple Macs. Eight science labs. Spacious refectory reminiscent of the restaurant in an upmarket London department store with a choice of three hot options, plus a salad bar and other cold choices.

All of these facilities are in constant use by the pupil body, which now numbers 840 seniors and 1,400 overall, with capacity for another 100. However, the structure is a family of small schools – year groups of 60, so 300 in the girls’ division, 300 in the boys’ and a sixth form that is a tight-knit community of 240. Parents see the upside of this rapid growth – ‘there are now even more opportunities available both in and out of the classroom for students,’ says one, adding ‘they’re known as individuals and not mere numbers’. Sixth formers have their own wing of the arts centre, plus the atmospheric Denford Bar in one of the most historic parts of the main building - originally a grand entrance and stairwell to the Duke of Buckingham’s bedroom, more recently the HR offices - now sympathetically restored and interior designed with leather stools and tapestry cushions and soon to be licensed (student drinks under staff supervision only). The venue for informal student society meetings and also the haunt of teachers in the evenings, who in the daytime frequent the newly refurbished mid-mod style staff room, complete with kitchen and adjoining room of work stations and a big-screen TV (head’s weekly briefing takes place here but the school’s 400 may tune in virtually from across the school).

Recent bold development of the campus for 2020 and beyond has shone a light on the need for learning in a sensory way outdoors, and has caused certain more exterior projects to be bumped up the schedule. Large-scale structures cover several less-used areas of the grounds, transforming them into semi-outdoor spaces for activities, including dining, play and concerts. The school farm has been improved with new paths alongside the roomy pens for pigs, Rutland rams, pygmy goats, chickens, rabbits and even young peacocks – one of whom obligingly celebrated our visit by showing his colours - all enjoying the rural idyll and providing inspiration for lessons along with instruction on animal husbandry to students of all ages. An historic pond is due to be reinstated for fishing, reviving a traditional manor house pastime, and a 2020 Memorial Orchard is soon to be planted, with a plan to bottle the resulting fruit and sell for charity. Meanwhile, the original walled convent garden is a tranquil spot and has proved useful for on-campus camp-outs with campfires and marshmallows.

A mini settlement of eco-friendly lodges accommodates non-local staff, as well as the occasional visitor, and two semi-detached houses on the edge of the campus have been bought by the school to house eight trainee teachers who are learning their craft on-site, with good prospects of being retained.

The school chapel, with catered receptions in the landscaped gardens, is now a popular place for New Hallians to tie the knot.

Former pupils are automatic members of the New Hallians, an association which numbers many notables, including: international fashion designer Anya Hindmarch; CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour; English racing driver, broadcaster and motoring journalist Amanda Stretton; artist and novelist Leonora Carrington; former British Ambassador to Mexico, Spain and Andorra and Chair of Council at the University of Sussex, Dame Denise Holt DCMG; Master of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Pippa Rogerson; neuroscientist and feminist Prof Gina Rippon; opera singer Stefanie Kemball-Read; and Horrid Henry actor Theo Stevenson.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Personal qualities, kindness in particular, are recognised and drawn out, and pupils we met were certainly happy in their own skin. This is a Catholic school and although those of all faiths and none are welcome, Christian values are at its core. ‘Pastoral care is a quintessential component of life at New Hall and one which pervades each student and parent experience,’ approves a parent. Support and care for others, both in school and outside it, are fundamental. ‘Corpus’ sixth form discussion group focuses on equality and diversity and reports back to principal on behalf of students, while a parent forum has recently been established to discuss issues of racial diversity and inclusion, with recommendations implemented. Parents satisfied that the school’s growth has not had a negative impact – ‘we feel strongly that the level of care and teaching provided has not been ‘diluted’ in any way,’ says a parent. ‘If anything, it appears the school has used this growth to accelerate various improvements in its infrastructure and facilities.’ Parents too are comfortable in the fold, and school communication is praised for keeping families in the loop.

Pupils and parents

This is a school surrounded by a changing profile of local parents – from the traditional farmers and professionals to city commuters and the grammar school educated. ‘Some have attended the historic Catholic schools such as Stonyhurst and Worth themselves and are now looking to us for their children,’ says principal. Being Catholic is not a prerequisite, but engagement with the religious life of the school very much is. ‘I would hope that our pupils would leave here well-informed on matters of faith, and that they would have absorbed our core moral and spiritual values,’ says principal.

Two new access roads have recently been added to make the site’s access and egress a more attractive prospect – one to skip the congestion of a chunk of the A12 and the other to link with the new upmarket housing development under construction on adjacent land and these, together with the proposed new mainline railway station are sure to widen New Hall’s net, from London to East Anglia. Long a favourite with overseas pupils - about 35 per cent of boarders, who represent more than 30 countries.

Money matters

Scholarships for Catholics, academic, music (including specific instrumental), all rounder, sport (general) and tennis, plus means-tested bursaries. Proponent of the HMC Scholar Scheme, with 100 per cent fee remission for several students from central Europe.

The last word

One of the largest independent schools in the UK, but smartly arranged for a small-school feel - this is a place boys and girls may contribute to and take from in equal measure, learning to relish individual academic success but also the greater joy of being part of a community.

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

Please contact the registrar on 01245 467588 for information on SEN provision at New Hall.

Who came from where


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