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Pastoral care uniformly ‘phenomenal’ according to parents. In a competitive landscape of academic hothouses and sharp elbows, Queenswood seems elevated to a higher stratosphere permeated by kindness and support. Sure, there are ‘friendship issues’ like everywhere else, but students told us that anything over and above day to day spats ‘gets shut down really quickly’. Head describes communication between staff as ‘phenomenal’ and mental health issues amongst the students such as anxiety or eating disorders are ‘few and far between’. Parents rave about...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Basic Communication Skills at an English Independent School (Graded Drama Music Lit Speech)

2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Japanese at an English Independent School (GCSE Full Course)
  • Best performance by Girls taking Design & Technology Product Design at an English Independent School (GCSE Full Course)

Curricula

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

Sports

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2016, Joanna Cameron BSc PGCE (40s). Educated at St Stephen’s College, Broadstairs where she was a boarder from age 7 (pony in tow) followed by A levels at Moira House School, Eastbourne. Degree in environmental science from St Mary’s College, University of Surrey, where she stayed to complete PGCE with specialism in biology. Considered a career in either the RAF or police force, but was ‘inspired by my own love of school’ to eschew a life in uniform and pursue the path of teaching, firm in the belief that ‘every girl should have great opportunities’. First teaching post was at St Mary’s, Wantage, where she became head of science, followed by a stint at St Gabriel’s, Newbury, before becoming deputy head at Ipswich High School in 2013. Headship of an all girls’ boarding school seemed a natural next step: ‘I’m so at home in this environment’.

Was impressed by ‘phenomenal’ pastoral care and has now improved it further by cementing the structure rather than relying on individuals. Says school is ‘passionate about every girl exceeding her expectations, not only celebrating success at the highest level’ and keen to communicate that, despite continued uplift in registrations, Queenswood ‘will never be an academic hothouse – we get results without tears’. Parents concur that their daughters are ‘part of a community that’s not just about exams’ (perhaps that’s why the jungle drums tell us that Q scoops up a fair number of refugees from nearby girls’ schools that are found to be either too academically pushy or unfriendly). Exudes a sensible and purposeful aura; parents say she’s ‘full of determination’ and has focused on ‘evolution not revolution’ since her arrival. All this, wrapped up in a friendly and down to earth demeanour. Says Q has ‘such warmth’ and seems to embody this herself.

Lives on site with husband, David, a software engineer, and two sons currently schooled at Lochinver House and St Columba’s. Entire family visible around campus, often all going to school supper and performances together. ‘I want to show our girls that women today really can have it all’, she says. Keen sportswoman – runs, plays hockey and still competes with her horse.

Academic matters

Strong results, especially given broad intake. In 2018, 65 per cent of A level/Pre-U grades were A*-B, and 40 per cent A*/A. Although these don’t place school at top of local league tables (the competition is, to be fair, on the stellar side), few can touch it when it comes to value added. Parents pleased to see the academic ante being upped - science and French reportedly showing marked improvement. Strong modern languages department, with French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese all available up to A level (Japanese increasingly popular partly thanks to a cultural visit to Japan) and Latin from year 7. Chinese GCSE and A level for native speakers if requested. Nine or 10 GCSEs taken by the majority, but the most able can take up to 12, plus the optional HPQ (Higher Project Qualification) which counts as a half. In 2018, 58 per cent of GCSEs were graded A*-A/9-7. Outstanding GCSE results in maths and science – maths also very popular and reports top results at A level. Psychology A level now available – a bid to stop girls looking elsewhere.

‘Gentle setting’ in year 7 for maths and English, then science from year 10. Teaching ‘aims to be bespoke and individualised’ says head, ‘all teachers aim to inspire one or two girls every single day’ – and with the luxury of a staff/student ratio of 5.5:1 and class sizes never higher than 24 (often smaller), the formula to achieve this is spot on. ‘Our USP is that we have time for every girl,’ says head. Relationships palpably strong between students and staff and an ‘open door’ culture pervades: ‘my teachers work around me’, one sixth former told us. Trad teaching, although technology well used – all girls have a laptop and google classroom is being ‘gently’ introduced.

Newly launched personalised learning hub (2018) has replaced the traditional SEN department and brings girls with IEP reports, academic scholars and Oxbridge candidates together under one roof ‘to get rid of any stigma and ensure all needs are met’, says head. ‘It sits nicely with who we are’. Around 10 per cent of cohort are on learning support register at any given time – and are kept on it even after ‘graduating’ to ensure no slippage. School now aiming to avoid withdrawal altogether and keep support for those with mild to moderate SpLDs as much in the classroom as possible.

Games, options, the arts

‘Queenswood’s good at everything,’ one proud pupil told us. And who are we to disagree? Sport tops the list and it’s a battle between hockey and tennis for starring role, parents marvelling at how decidedly unsporty prep schoolers have become passionate sportswomen during their time at Q; ‘it’s the give it a go attitude that we love,’ said one. On the tennis front, school is national LTA clay court centre, hosts the annual national schools’ championships, is recommended by the LTA as a destination for wannabe tennis pros and offers tennis-specific sports scholarships. It boasts no less than 25 courts – 12 clay and 13 all-weather. New sports hall has replaced antiquated indoor tennis centre. Hockey played competitively for two terms on the impressive Astroturf; tip-top coaching sees many girls reach county and some national level and trophies and cups abound. Students can also choose options including athletics, gymnastics, fencing, swimming in modern indoor pool, sailing, badminton and tag rugby. Football less popular but sometimes played if demand is there, school is a UK hub for girls’ cricket – a recent masterclass with former England captain has left girls ‘absolutely inspired,’ say parents – and the recent introduction of a dance scholarship has put that firmly on the school map too.

Elite athletes across all disciplines are carefully mentored; fitness coaches devise bespoke programmes, advise on diet etc and school accommodates external training and fixtures for these high flyers (a GB skier, a GB sailor and a GB tumbler currently in their number). Parents of less elite players report delightedly on emphasis is on health, nutrition and fitness too. Tons of sports tours, recently tennis to Catalunya and Rome, years 7 to 9 hockey to Barcelona and biennial senior hockey to eg South Africa and Sri Lanka. Well-being introduced in year 11, with options including yoga, couch to 5K, boxercise, riding, golf and basketball. Up to six sporting activities on offer every lunch time: ‘it’s the rich non-academic life that makes all that maths and physics worthwhile’, quipped one parent.

‘Amazing’ music department, according to girls, more than half of whom learn at least one instrument, some more. Inspirational departmental head says, ‘if they have a talent, I’ll try to find it’, and ‘anything goes in terms of style – as long as it’s good’. Q songwriters are frequently highly ranked in the Amnesty International Protest Song competition – with one recent overall winner. Bands, orchestras and ensembles for every instrument and genre, from percussion band to flute choir. The school CD with performances recorded at Angel Studios we were given to take home made the journey fly by. Plenty of opportunities for international showcasing here too – orchestra and choir tours to destinations including Venice and Florence allow students to perform in world class settings – next up is Hong Kong in 2020. Drama equally strong, making excellent use of super facilities that include a studio theatre with a full time dedicated two-man stage crew. Lower and upper school plays are open to all, with girls forming strong friendship bonds across year groups. Recent hits have been Les Mis and A Christmas Carol Gone Wrong (the latter a comedy penned by school staff). Large LAMDA take-up with excellent results.

Buzzy art department with artist in residence on hand. We loved the way that art scholars of all ages are brought together to create paintings and installations for display around the school – when we visited they were working on a collection for the new library. Decent take up of art A level, with a few girls each year heading off to art school. Super textiles too, starting simple with jazzy pencil cases for younger pupils, building up to wedding and evening dresses by senior girls. Leiths cookery course run in preference to food tech (sounds like a good trade to us), taught as a timetabled lesson to years 7 and 8 and as a club thereafter. An abundance of clubs at lunch times and after school – girls encouraged to do at least three per week – and even sixth formers pack their schedules with pursuits including Model United Nations and debating on top of their academic and sporting commitments.

Boarders

At its very core a boarding school, although day pupils well integrated (‘they are good at discouraging a boarder/day girl split’, one parent assured us) and all manner of flexible options, from one to four nights, now in place as well as full boarding (mainly international students, who account for about a quarter of the school population) and occasional boarding too. Majority of accommodation over two floors in main school building. More functional than inviting with very little personal decoration in place and no sign of a tidy dorm policy – perhaps Queenswood girls are so busy they don’t have time to hang around and enjoy their dorms, although when we popped in at break time, rooms were awash with girls hungrily getting their morning social media fix. Decorative improvements are afoot, however, so watch this space. Sixth form accommodation is better, with bright and cosy common rooms, views across the rolling hills and playing fields and a full kitchen for students preferring to prepare their own meals. Two staff members live in each house. Very small boarding numbers in years 7, although recent dramatic reduction in boarding fees for these years (now cheaper to weekly board than travel on some bus routes) hopes to see this change. Almost half board in some capacity in year 8. Lively programme of activities for full boarders, with cooking, crafts and trips – often making the most of proximity to London – and sixth formers are allowed into London in pairs, although older girls in particular appreciate ‘lots of free time’. Day girls can stay for any meal with no charge.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in Clapham Park in 1894 before moving to current location – a purpose built neo-Tudor building, set amongst 120 acres of sports fields, woodland and immaculately clipped gardens – in 1925. Rarefied in the extreme. Just two miles from the M25 but still somehow in the middle of nowhere. Passing through the monogrammed, wrought iron gates the real world is left behind and immersion into a pristine, wholesome universe feels absolute. Rolling programme of improvements keeps things fresh – there’s no particular jewel in the Queenswood crown but perhaps more a tiara of equally shining attributes. Sixth formers now have their own centre with smart studies shared between three or four students, social area and well stocked kitchens. Super theatre with all mod cons and stunning new library – an airy, vaulted art deco affair housed in the Old Pool Hall.

Girls, smart in grey and purple, are friendly and down to earth. There’s an air of innocence about them – not a spiky edge in sight. All appreciate the ‘immense trust’ that pervades school: ‘we can leave our stuff around and know that it will be safe,’ one told us.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Pastoral care uniformly ‘phenomenal’, according to parents. In a competitive landscape of academic hothouses and sharp elbows, Queenswood seems elevated to a higher stratosphere permeated by kindness and support. Sure, there are ‘friendship issues’ like everywhere else, but students told us that anything over and above day to day spats ‘gets shut down really quickly’. Head describes communication between staff as ‘phenomenal’ and mental health issues amongst the students such as anxiety or eating disorders are ‘few and far between’. Parents rave about ‘proactive approach to teenage mental health’. ‘We have so many pairs of eyes on them,’ says head, ‘and the staff operate as one large team.’ Girls say they ‘go above and beyond’ to help one another – demonstrated by excellent mentoring programme with A level students supporting GCSE strugglers where needed. Sixth form students are able to choose their personal tutor and meet with them weekly to discuss progress or concerns.

Almost every dietary requirement imaginable catered for by an outstanding canteen staff, delivering top notch cuisine morning, noon and night. Although a reasonably conservative environment, head says ‘we don’t shy away’ from issues with eg sexuality: ‘differences are totally accepted and the vast majority are really accepting of one another’. But is all this kindness and such a heavily rarefied environment really preparing students for the big bad world out there? IHead believes so: ‘we actively encourage risk taking and failure, to develop resilience,’ she says. Transgressions? ‘Very few. I’m lucky’, says head. No drugs enforcements on recent record and just one alcohol related misdemeanour, resulting in exclusion. Mixed views on socials with boys’ schools. Some girls we spoke to wanted more, some none at all. Lochinver’s on the dance card for the younger girls, with Bedford and Radley for the older ones. Thankfully, some bright spark did away with the year 7 disco recently and replaced it with a mini Olympics style team building event: ‘much more fun,’ said one attendee.

Pupils and parents

Around half of all pupils board, with a quarter of these from overseas, largely Hong Kong and mainland China, and all continents represented. Increasing numbers of first time buyers plus north London families looking to escape the hothouses by taking advantage of Q’s bespoke transport service. Active parents’ association organises plenty of social activities throughout the year and helps with fundraising efforts. All sixth formers awarded a silver Q brooch – presumably to help them identify one another in the ‘real’ world. The Old Queenswoodians’ Association is some 4,000 members strong and branches across the globe in readiness to support and advance its members whatever their location or chosen field. Speech days are attended not just by current pupils and their families, but also a handful of old girls – some in their 80s – who come to socialise and share in the successes of current pupils. Carol Thatcher’s an old girl, as are tennis ace Naomi Cavaday, actress Helen McCrory and TV presenter Lady Georgie Ainslie.

Entrance

Increasing competition for between 50 and 60 places at 11+. Candidates take school's own exam; all applicants are interviewed and seen by head. ‘References and spark as important – if not more so – as academics,’ we are assured, although school expects successful applicants to be ‘at least average or above’. Top feeders are Stormont, Duncombe, Devonshire House, Edge Grove, Heathmount and Manor Lodge. Strong sixth form intake. Candidates must have six GCSEs at B/6 or above and A/7s in their chosen A level subjects.

Exit

Up to a quarter leave after GCSEs, mainly lured by co-ed or to experience life outside of the ivory tower. ‘Retention into sixth form is tough,’ admits head who is upping the ante to try to hang on to older students – not just with the new sixth form centre on the edge of the site to give it a slightly separate feel, but also with focused events such as talks from eg Tom Kerridge and Clare Balding. Careers department, however, thought to be ‘really good’ and mirrors school’s open door policy for meetings or CV checking as well as organising careers and networking evenings with OQs and current parents. Majority at 18 to wide range of solid universities – over a quarter to London colleges, a couple each year to American universities (often with sports scholarships in hand). Pleasingly broad range of subject choices – no trends. One to Oxbridge in 2018.

Money matters

Day fees on the high side compared to local competition – and that’s without the pricey, albeit bespoke, door to door transport service. Occasional means-tested bursaries and discount for Forces families. Majority of scholarships are honorary, offering additional support or training rather than monetary value.

Our view

Pushy parents move along – this is not the place for you. But if you want your daughter to experience all the sport, arts and extracurricular that Queenswood has to offer, whilst securing some pretty decent grades (and staying sane in the process), we strongly advise a visit.

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

Queenswood provides learning support to girls assessed as needing additional help with their studies. Pupils are given individualised support in conjunction with their lessons and each has a tailored programme to suit their needs while engaging in the curriculum at large. There is a charge for assessment and support. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
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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