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What says..

Broad intake, coupled with commendable performance, places school at pinnacle of Hertfordshire's value-added tables. Languages are hot here, with most girls taking two at GCSE and one to A level. Japanese really gaining momentum from year 8 up. A school for budding international sports stars – 'We love watching sports and it's a joy to be part of a school that wins'. Rehearsals for Sweeney Todd in the rehearsal space when we visited – great gusto on display. Celebrated its 120th anniversary in style with a music, drama and dance extravaganza...

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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 September 2016, Joanna Cameron, previously deputy head of Ipswich High. Degree in environmental science from Surrey; she has taught science at St Mary's Wantage and was a member of the senior leadership team at St Gabriel's in Newbury. A keen sportswoman, with a passion for running, hockey and equestrianism, she is married to David and they have two sons.

Academic matters

A level/Pre-U results strong. In 2016, 73 per cent of grades were A*-B in the 23 subjects offered and 51 per cent A*/A. Forty per cent of students gained at least three A*/A grades, while over 20 per cent of all grades achieved were A* – the highest ever tally for the school. Broad intake, coupled with commendable performance, places school at pinnacle of Hertfordshire's value-added tables. Languages are hot here, with most girls taking two at GCSE and one to A level. Japanese really gaining momentum from year 8 up, thanks to enthusiastic teaching and a cultural visit to Japan (alternative for those staying at home is a week of Japanese visitors and activities). Latin from year 7 and the recommendation is that pupils either continue with it or switch to classical civilisation from year 8. Italian and Spanish also on the menu and girls encouraged to continue studies in their own native languages.

No one is refused a go at a GCSE – ‘they’re keen to push the academic students as much as possible, but are also prepared to coach and encourage those who are less academic and need a different approach,’ noted a parent. In 2016, 64 per cent A*/A grades. Teaching is mainly traditional with ICT increasingly used by all – every girl has a laptop. Sets for maths, French, English and science; class sizes not larger than 24, many smaller (DT scheduled against ICT in year 7 and textiles in year 8 to allow for smaller groups, for example). Pre-U English and history of art going great guns and EPQ alongside A levels (no IB here and no plans). RE growing in popularity with a dozen taking A level and one or two per year to study theology or philosophy at uni (often Cambridge). Government and politics a popular newcomer. Academic scholars have a staff mentor.

About 15 per cent have EAL needs. Support available for those with moderate dyslexia or other, mild SEN. Some 90 on register, many monitored and some receive one-to-one (max two lessons a week) from helpful and enthusiastic learning support co-ordinator. Most have SpLD type difficulties but a few with mild ADD, ADHD or ASD. School earnestly insists that parents matter. 'They're the ones who know the girls, what makes them tick, what causes them to crumble, so we're always keen to discuss issues, strategies and ways forward.'

Games, options, the arts

A school for budding international sports stars – 'We love watching sports and it's a joy to be part of a school that wins'. Lots of successes at regional and national finals. National hockey players include members of the England junior squad and one recent leaver is now a promising player on the international tennis circuit, another a world-class rower. School is a national LTA clay court centre and hosts the annual national schools’ championships. School's tennis team were silver medallists at recent World Schools Tennis Championships and the Lawn Tennis Association recommends it for would-be tennis stars. With 27 courts in all – 12 clay, 13 all-weather and two indoors – 'you can play tennis at any level,' and at almost any time. One pupil is a national and international wheelchair tennis star. Budding stars in all disciplines are carefully mentored – help given with diet, fitness (fitness coach onsite who devises individual programmes), training, fixtures etc. Masses of inter-school competitions ensure sport for all. Facilities include large, modern indoor swimming pool, Astroturf hockey pitch, fully equipped fitness suite, aerobics room, professional dance studio and huge sports hall.

More than half learn a musical instrument and many at least two. Ensembles for everything and very enthusiastic teaching – a lively percussion session was in full swing when we visited. School rock band. One pupil a BBC Young Chorister of the Year finalist recently. Meanwhile drama thrives, with half taking LAMDA lessons and awards for actors and public speakers. Lower and upper school productions every year, plus one for GCSE and A level students and scholar plays in between. Rehearsals for Sweeney Todd in the rehearsal space when we visited – great gusto on display. Dramatists visit Edinburgh Fringe. Celebrated its 120th anniversary in style with a music, drama and dance extravaganza at the Barbican Hall in London.

Thriving 3D art department with its own kiln. Around 10 a year continue to A level (upper sixth students have individual atelier workspaces) and a few move on to art school, while architecture is also popular. Artists are inspired on trips to Milan and Florence.

One of only 20 schools to run the elite Leith’s cookery course in preference to food tech – taught right from the beginning (even including lessons on choosing the right wine to accompany). When we visited girls were whipping up macaroni cheese or rack of lamb with a herb crust, depending on ability. Timetabled lessons for years 7 and 8 and a club thereafter. Each student issued with her own set of Sabatier knives, uniform and Leith’s ‘bible’ to keep. Leith’s teacher was formerly a chef in the school’s own kitchens.

Dance unsurprisingly popular and the school has its own dance team (puts on an annual spectacular and contributes to other school shows too). Model United Nations, Young Enterprise, debating society, plus charity works. Thriving D of E – 25 working on gold, 45 recently achieved bronze. School awarded silver level eco-school status.

Trips galore, especially with London on the doorstep (museums, galleries, Wimbledon etc). Year 9 girls have the opportunity to study for a term overseas, usually Australia or New Zealand. Language visits to Spain and Japan. Sports teams tour all over the world – all ‘help the girls to develop independence, work as a team and cope when things don’t go right'. Acknowledgement of the global community though exchange schools in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Japan. Girls work on education projects with schools in Malawi and Zambia. Closer to home, community work in local primary schools and with the elderly – developing ‘generosity of spirit and the importance of giving, to counteract the materialism communicated by the media'.

Boarders

Cosy houses with contemporary interior design to please even the pickiest of teenage girls integrate day and boarding pupils – one for years 7 and 8, four for years 9, 10 and 11, plus sixth form houses. Day girls have the flexibility to board when they wish if a bed is free and this is encouraged. Some fixed 'in school' and 'home weekends,' otherwise boarders can spend full weekend at home with choice of Sunday evening or Monday morning return. A few traditionalists would prefer a return to full boarding, but most appreciate this is a move to meet 21st century family needs and preserve the boarding ethos.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in Clapham Park in 1894 and moved to purpose-built neo-Tudor building in 1925 (masses of later additions). Splendid grounds – glorious gardens open to the public at end of May and 120 acres of sports fields and woodland. Two miles from the M25, a 'commutable hour' from London. First-rate Audrey Butler Centre (aka the ABC) houses lecture theatre, language labs and masses of classrooms. Impressive new theatre and associated facilities a jewel in the crown. Science labs recently refurbed. School is ‘quietly fundraising’ for a Queenswood Hall as an alternative to chapel.

Sixth formers have their own comfortable pad – known as the Pizza Hut, originally thanks to its reminiscent shape and roof, but latterly more for the number of Domino’s orders. Beautifully decorated common room – very girl suitable, with squishy leather sofas, large flat-screen TV, chic bar tables and stools and pool tables. Quiet area equipped with computers for studiers, plus kitchen corner for break-time snacks.

Girls are smart in grey and purple – ‘unfussy and not ridiculously expensive,’ approved a parent – with sixth formers in office-style apparel.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

There is a Queenswood way of doing things, which begins up high and ‘permeates its way through the rest of the school,’ comments a perspicacious parent. Certainly the school day reflects the level-headedness that typifies the school’s approach to everything. The day starts with boarders’ breakfast at 7.30am, then chapel (school is Methodist foundation but services are non-denom) twice a week at 8.15am and lessons from 8.45am until lunch, with a mid-morning break. Year 7s have a study hour incorporated in their day and all girls participate in their chosen activities – crafts, sport and other clubs – after formal lessons finish at 4.20pm. ‘Balance is key,’ says the school.

School’s approach is to encourage girls to adapt and assimilate change – ‘We applaud having a go. We tell them that failure is a part of learning and challenging themselves.’ A secure support and pastoral network through housemistresses, tutors and friendly faces. The overwhelmed or anxious are free to confide in any member of staff with whom they feel comfortable. All keep an eye out in particular for girls who are stretching themselves thinly to take advantage of all Queenswood has to offer.

Houses are run by teaching housemistresses, with assistants and a team of academic tutors (around 10 tutees each). Pupil-teacher and parent-teacher relationships relaxed but respectful - 'we work in partnership with parents; we want them to take an active interest in the school and their daughter's education.' Now a large prefect team with specialist responsibilities. Girls who put themselves forward for head girl must present on stage to the whole school and everyone votes for the speech they found most compelling. Principal’s choice from then on.

Range of visiting speakers use personal experiences to raise awareness of hard-hitting issues such as drugs, sex, HIV and alcoholism. Girls taking drugs 'lose their right to be a member of the school.' Rewards and sanctions system aims to reward girls for contributions to school life and help them overcome any problems they may have with that. Postcards of praise, gold badges and stars reward pupils; demerits and detentions aim to deter miscreants. Parents involved at early stages.

Food is ‘delicious,’ enthuses a self-confessed foodie year 8. Serving area a top hotel would crow about, even with its own showcase area where food is cooked to order. Option of outdoor eating in new picnic/BBQ area when weather permits.

Perhaps acknowledging the reason some girls opt to leave for sixth form, school now hosts joint projects with Bedford and Radley but school says Q girls never have a problem integrating in a mixed environment when they go to university – ‘that’s just a myth.’

Pupils and parents

‘The girls are self-confident and very resourceful,’ says school, though adds that there’s no particular type. ‘They’re real individuals, not moulded.’ Nearly 50 per cent boarders. Twenty per cent from abroad – fair proportion from Hong Kong and mainland China, with some expats. All continents represented. EAL taken seriously. Scholars are well recognised around the school – ‘there’s no envy,’ said our eloquent sixth former guide. ‘Everyone is inspired by them and shares in their success.’

Very much a 'sleeves rolled up' school for community-minded doers who are happy to get stuck in. Refreshing to find pre-teen girls as excited by camping out and playing hide and seek as they are by beauty and make-up sessions. Sixth formers articulate, poised, feisty but sensible.

Lots of first-time buyers, with both partners working. Masses from London. Drawn by Q’s ‘warmth and positive energy,’ explains one. Strong parents' association much involved with social activities throughout the year and generous contributions to school development projects.

Old Queenswoodians' Association is arguably one of the largest, with more than 4,000 members and branches around the world, ready to befriend and advance Queenswood girls in all sorts of careers and all sorts of places. OQs include Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson, actress Helen McCrory, Professor Dame Alison Richard (former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University), journalist Carol Thatcher, tennis player Naomi Cavaday and GB athlete Jodie Williams.

Entrance

Early registration advised, but entry into most years if vacancies permit, either by CE or own entrance exam. Visits welcome by appointment, pupils act as tour guides. Broad ability intake but should be capable of gaining good grades at GCSE. Strong sixth form intake – candidates must get six GCSEs at B or above, with As in the subjects they want to study at A level. Pupils join from a number of schools, including Stormont, St Mary's (NW3), Lyonsdown, Beechwood Park, St Hilda's (Harpenden), Heath Mount, Maltman's Green, Duncombe, Edge Grove and Palmers Green High.

Exit

Up to 25 per cent leave at 16, usually lured by co-ed. Some come back. At 18 majority to wide range of universities eg London unis, Birmingham, Bristol, Loughborough, Warwick, York. One to Cambridge in 2016. Many gap years – school offers support with planning.

Money matters

Majority of scholarships are honorary, bringing glory and support rather than cash, though bursaries available in cases of need. Very much looking at what they can offer that will foster girls’ talents rather than offering financial sweetener. Music (including organ scholarship), drama, art, tennis and sport scholarships. Occasional bursaries – means-tested. Discount for Forces families.

Our view

A modern girls’ school to which others should aspire. A winning combination of traditional values with a broad, forward-looking education to equip bright young women with the integrity and self-belief to make a difference in the world of the future.

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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
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
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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