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Parents praised school’s rigorous approach to ensuring ‘nobody slips through the gaps’, and we couldn’t find anyone to tell us that academic success was ever left to chance, although head was careful to reinforce message that ‘mistakes are normalised’ and the atmosphere is not pressure cooker. Public exam candidates have...

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What the school says...

At STAHS we believe it is our responsibility prepare young people for life beyond school. We call this our Teach to 25 philosophy. Our vision is for each child to become a happy, resilient young person who embraces opportunities. It's how pupils at STAHS are prepared to live lives of consequence.
From our character education programme which starts in Reception, to our Super-curriculum that stretches pupils beyond the limits of exam specifications, to our formal two-year leadership programme for Sixth Formers, Teach to 25 runs through every aspect of a STAHS education. We equip STAHS pupils with the skills, independence and knowledge needed to navigate their path in the critical early years of adult life.
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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


Since 2019, Amber Waite, previously deputy head pastoral at St Dunstan’s College. In the running for prize for The Good Schools Guide’s most unusual route to headship; American by birth, she was educated in Texas and New Jersey and spent 10 years as a biogeochemical oceanographer (yup, we had to google it too) before realising vocation to teach. Having pursued a teaching career in the US she moved to the UK as director of the schools and universities learning programmes for the Civil Service. Thence back into teaching, arriving in current post via stints at Headington, Abingdon and Ashford Schools before St Dunstan’s. Was a somewhat reluctant applicant for STAHS headship as she isn’t a ‘proponent of single sex education’ but was won round when she learned of the strength of school community. Neither, by the way, is she a fan of ‘anything that reinforces gender stereotypes; we never talk about girls’ education here, just good education’. Has seamlessly continued school’s tradition of academic excellence. ‘We’ll never take our foot off the academic pedal,’ she says, ‘but there is a lot more to do’.

First job was to review staff room and recruit to mirror values of diversity and inclusion, in terms of ethnicity, gender and professional background. Then followed a cabinet reshuffle with the appointment of a brand new senior leadership team, plus – putting her business experience to good use – an executive committee of six. Staff say she ‘brought transparency’ and when we sat with the SLT on our visit, the sense of singular focus and teamwork was palpable. Staff development is a major focus (‘it’s about regular input rather than one day courses’) and pastoral care has shifted up a notch on her watch – ‘we want happy young people who thrive way beyond their time here’. Another key challenge was to take ownership of school’s identity and to help it become known for its own strengths rather than as a mere competitor to other top day schools.

Disarmingly direct, surprisingly youthful given her experience and the wearer of some of the coolest footwear we’ve ever seen on a head teacher (chunky Chelsea boots, if you’re wondering) Ms Waite is as far removed from the stereotypical bluestocking head teacher as she could be. Totally at ease with the pupils – we sat in on a meeting with the sixth form prefect team – as they are with her. Interestingly, she selected her first batch of prefects because of their potential as role models, regardless of whether or not they we re on track for straight A*s – ‘I felt it was me that mattered, not just my grades,’ said one.

Lives locally and has a teenage son who attends a local independent school.


There are 130 places in year 7 (no year 9 entry for girls coming from co-ed preps). Heavily oversubscribed (around three applicants for every place) and highly academically selective, with number of applications increasing every year and high acceptance rate. External applicants sit ISEB Common Pre-Test, complete creative writing task, experience taster lesson and take part in educational team activities. Results are age-standardised. Around two-thirds are interviewed before final offers made. Since 2020, STAHS prep pupils no longer take entrance exam and scholarship candidates are invited to assessment on recommendation from prep head based on their academic track record.

Around 50 join from prep with half the remainder coming from state primaries and half from prep schools including Beechwood Park, Edge Grove, Manor Lodge, Radlett Prep and St Hilda’s Harpenden. Around 40 per cent travel to school by coach and school is also well served by national rail, used by pupils coming from North London (about 25 per cent).


Majority stay after GCSEs, with those that leave (30 per cent in 2023) seeking co-ed (steady trickle to St Albans School each year), boarding or just a change of scene. All to higher ed at 18, with five to Oxbridge in 2023, 11 medics/dentists/vets and a few to the US. School says focus is on ‘right place, right subject’ for each applicant and notably split of degree choices is equal between science, humanities and social sciences. Other popular destinations in recent years include Imperial, UCL, KCL, Durham, Leeds, Exeter, Bristol and Nottingham. Interest in degree apprenticeships increasing, with law firms and businesses such as GSK, Deloitte and Dyson attending school careers fairs; one pupil in 2023 scooped a law degree apprenticeship. Small handful to creative arts courses each year.

Latest results

In 2023, 87 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 70 per cent A*/A at A level (91 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year of pre-pandemic results) 90 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 69 per cent A*/A (90 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

We identified school mantra as ‘challenge for all’ and ambition is found in spades in all departments, underpinned by head leading the charge in ‘encouraging rather than pushing’ pupils. Although the sixth formers we met described a ‘balanced culture’, labelling school ‘a comfortable place’, public exam grades belie pupils’ ease in their environment and remain stellar. Trad curriculum, with 25 subjects on offer at A level: maths, psychology and sciences currently topping the popularity polls. All start with four, with around a third dropping one of these. Ten GCSEs is norm, with one MFL (French, German, Mandarin or Spanish) compulsory and creative options reassuringly popular. Class sizes in year 7 are 24 – halved for creative and technical subjects – shrinking at GCSE to around 15 to 18 and smaller still at A level.

Parents praised school’s rigorous approach to ensuring ‘nobody slips through the gaps’, and we couldn’t find anyone to tell us that academic success was ever left to chance, although head was careful to reinforce message that ‘mistakes are normalised’ and the atmosphere is not pressure cooker. Public exam candidates have two sets of mocks to inch them closer to those top grades and pupils enthused about teachers answering revision questions instantly even in school holidays. Outstanding teaching a recurring theme – head focused on HODs modelling ‘subject knowledge and passion’ to filter through departments

Director of higher education and careers ensures girls are pushed ‘out of their comfort zone’, with all departments teaching ‘university stretch’ at A level and ‘second to none’ Oxbridge preparation. Girls declare support during the university application process ‘amazing’, with each being allocated a subject mentor in their chosen subject for bespoke guidance throughout and support with their personal statement (ten drafts is not unusual): ‘invaluable’, said one grateful sixth former. Actively engaged alumni and parent body boost the careers offering.

Learning support and SEN

School doesn’t claim to offer outstanding SEN provision and parents we spoke to thought there was definitely ‘work to do’ in this area, although head says assessment is ‘more scientific than it used to be’ and there is now a full time SENCo on staff. Unsurprisingly, ‘very low’ numbers on the SEN register (about 8.5 per cent). School says able to support mild dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia through mix of one-to-one and class-based work. Girls are not screened routinely but concerns are flagged by teaching staff.

The arts and extracurricular

Firing on all cylinders across the board. All aspects of school life held together by collective enthusiasm and a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude. We love an inspirational art department – especially one with an artist in residence – and STAHS didn’t disappoint when we visited. Sixth form artists (yes, it is an acceptable third A level), work in a dedicated space, reminiscent of art college, with a superb standard of work on display – we predict A*s all round. Textiles offering is a similarly serious set-up – two full classes at GCSE most years, as well as a good handful taking the A level. Product design and textiles also offered to A level, with a smaller uptake – school says it’s ‘pushing engineering and architecture’ from the word go; facilities include a laser cutter and three 3D printers. Those hoping to pursue careers in the arts well supported; three to art college in 2022 and a further two to study architecture.

Thespians well catered for. Drama on curriculum in years 7 and 8 and offered up to A level, with strong uptake (16 in 2022). School productions alternate between musical theatre – recently Sister Act and Fame (decreed ‘fabulous’ by parents) – and drama (latest performance The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) with the entire production from tech to music run by pupils. Vibrant house drama competition, scripted by year 12s and performed by year 7s, with one recent production performed at local festival and there are theatre trips and workshops galore – including a trip to New York for GCSE and A level students.

Music taken seriously – well, why wouldn’t you when you have such a smart music block? Girls streamed according to musical aptitude from year 7, with top set taking their GCSE a year early. Half of cohort takes peripatetic music lessons with plethora of choirs (chamber, a capella, gospel and everything in between), bands (swing and pop as well as all the usual suspects) in which to showcase their talents. Vast co-curricular programme made us wonder how on earth they find the time, with girls able to spread their creative, sporting and intellectual wings to their hearts’ content plus CV boosters like DofE, EPQ, medvet society, school magazine, debating society, and Model United Nations. New sixth form diploma starts in year 12, with the aim of equipping girls with skills for life across academia, service and leadership and making the leap to university and adult life. Varied weekly sessions, from self defence classes to careers talks by STAHS alumni build towards a valediction ceremony to celebrate students’ achievements in their final year.


Despite urban location – games pitches are a 10-minute walk from school – there’s plenty on offer and school focused on ‘every student participating’. There’s Competitive (note capital C) netball (with A-E teams so everyone who wants to play, can) and lacrosse, plus fixtures for football, gymnastics, trampolining, athletics, tennis, cricket and badminton. That’s on top of swimming, dance, basketball and ski squad. Unusually, compulsory games all the way through to sixth form. Whilst not nestled amongst vast playing fields, impressive facilities for an urban school include new all-weather Astro pitches, pavilion, dance studio, fitness suite, large, traditionally equipped sports hall, netball courts, lacrosse pitches and 25m swimming pool, also used by prep pupils. Biennial ski trip plus sports tours overseas – football and lacrosse currently planning trip to USA.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1889, school moved to current site in 1908. Close links maintained with both the diocese and St Albans School (boys). Quirky mish-mash of buildings from trad Victorian to uber modern, plus one or two less appealing 1970s additions, straddles a quiet residential road, with girls moving seamlessly and sensibly between the various sites. A tour of the school takes in an impressive mix of facilities from the separate sports complex to stunning rotunda building – all floor to ceiling glass – where pupils can work, socialise and treat themselves to something from the on-site coffee shop. Super library for years 7 to 11 has studious feel and is extremely well resourced. A new university-style sixth form centre, along with a new suite of classrooms and dining room opened in 2020. Smart, navy uniform worn by girls up to sixth form, when pupils are allowed to dress ‘appropriately’ down.

Purposeful atmosphere, ‘not sharp-elbowed’, parents told us. We were, in fact, assured that the school is ‘very good at having fun’ and ‘rather jolly’, not something we often hear when we visit selective girls’ schools. Less rarefied than expected given lofty league table position – possibly because of urban location: girls ‘live with in-built risk all the time’ – could this also contribute to school’s ‘unique community spirit’? Pupils certainly appreciate proximity to city centre and are allowed to ‘pop into town’ at lunch times from year 11, good for keeping feet on ground. Frequent collaborations with local state schools such as STAGS, QE Boys and Loretto College.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Increased focus on placing mental well-being and happiness at the heart of the school, but with a thoroughly common-sensical approach under new head and recently appointed mental health and wellness lead: ‘we aim to normalise the ups and downs of being a young person and help girls understand that this is part of becoming an adult’. There's also a new wellbeing hub. House mistresses described by girls and parents as ‘amazing’ in this regard and there are multiple steps between an initial concern being raised and a referral to the school counsellor. A number of staff recently trained in mental health first aid, with more to follow. Trained pupil mentors abound from the raft of school and house officers, plus head girl and deputies and there are signposted youth health champions. Thriving house system creates sense of healthy competition, ‘but not between the girls,’ we were assured by parents. Students ‘celebrate each other,’ they said, and we were told that awards ceremonies take ages due to extended clapping and cheering. ‘No stigma’ attached to LGBTQIA+ (‘so well done,’ according to girls). Chosen pronouns are accepted as a matter of course and calendar events such as Pride and Black History Month are marked sensitively and appropriately. Assemblies are multi-faith. A formerly ‘prudish’ approach to sexual health has been addressed head on by a dedicated school nurse expert in community sexual health to whom students can take their personal worries in strictest confidence.

Pupils and parents

Students come mainly from dual income, hard-working families, many City workers and from the professions. Despite school moving in the same circles as Habs, NLCS et al, the majority of parents do not, with most still living relatively locally. A fleet of coaches whisks girls to and from school from as far afield as Luton, Hitchin and Potters Bar, with others arriving by overground train from London Boroughs such as Finchley and Totteridge. Lots of brothers at St Albans School, with whom STAHS collaborates for music – and, of course, parties. Girls amongst the most interesting, likeable and grounded of those we have met in any school of this calibre.

Money matters

Generous bursary pot with means tested support of up to 100 per cent available. Bursaries available in years 7 and 12, with around 10 to 15 per cent of cohort receiving some level of support, majority of these on 75 per cent or more. Academic, drama, sports and music scholarships from year 7. In year 10 further scholarships in academics, art, DT, drama, music and sport are offered to existing and new pupils. In sixth form, academic, art, DT, drama, sport and music. Parents still grumble that coach prices are expensive although school froze them in 2022. Fees still a shade lower than single sex competitors and St Albans School.

The last word

Now firmly established as a contender in the London academic day school scene, we were relieved to see that current head has taken back the pastoral reins without lifting foot from academic throttle. We will watch with interest as the true personality of STAHS emerges under her razor-sharp leadership.

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

We have a qualified specialist teacher who undertakes diagnostic assessments. Girls are given individual and group tuition tailored to suit and accommodate particular needs. Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

Who came from where

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