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Norwich High School for Girls

What says..

Girls are encouraged to choose the options that really interest them, even if that means contortions with the timetable and at A level, even more so. ’Whether it is further maths, Greek or art we want the girls to follow their own path’. One whole afternoon a week is devoted to sport: 'It enables matches to take place and means we can cater for a far wider range of activities’. Girls excel – indeed are often the local and regional champions - at all the usual team games...

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What the school says...

We encourage our students to experience as much as possible during their time with us by developing intellectual curiosity and a bold, confident approach to tackling both academic and personal challenges. Music, sport and drama are all strong features of the school. Choosing from more than 20 music ensembles to hockey, tennis, netball, gymnastics and lacrosse through to a variety of dance and drama groups the opportunities are broad and varied. In addition, there are up to 30 co-curricular clubs including Debating, Rowing, Textiles, Fencing, Amnesty, Robotics, Chess and the Cosmos (Science) Group. Girls can also go exploring or enter the world of business through the Duke of Edinburghs Award and Young Enterprise Schemes.

Academically, a wide range of subjects is available - currently 24 at A level and 20 at GCSE. Future engineers, artists, physicists and politicians all thrive at Norwich High School. We are proud of both the depth and breadth of our curriculum, and of our girls who achieve excellent academic results while enthusiastically engaging in the breadth of opportunities available to them which range from a vast array of cultural exchanges and voluntary service activities to timetabled My Time sessions and an innovative curriculum across the whole school - Early Years to Sixth Form.

Scholarships (including Music, Drama, Art and Design and Sport Scholarships) and bursaries are available in the senior school. Our Registrar will be pleased to give any further information you require, and can be contacted on 01603 453265.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

Other features

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 September 2020, Alison Sefton. Miss Sefton grew up in Scotland and was educated at Dollar Academy. She studied Chemistry at Durham University and then headed to London where she trained as an accountant. It was at this time that she also joined the Honourable Artillery Company as an army reservist. After ten years working in financial services, she took her PGCE at the University of Chester and became a chemistry teacher. Her first post was at Felsted School in Essex where she was latterly head of science and a housemistress; thence to Welbeck as head of chemistry. After this, she moved to Oswestry School as head of science, and then deputy head academic.

In her free time, she loves travelling and being outdoors, and is a keen runner, cyclist and swimmer who keeps meaning to do more triathlons.

Headmaster of prep school: Since 2016 Nicholas Tiley-Nunn BA in primary education (30s). Educated at Woodbridge School, then studied for a degree in primary education at Christchurch, Canterbury before returning to the Abbey School Woodbridge for his first post. After a spell at Radnor House as assistant pastoral head, he returned to East Anglia to be deputy head of the Old School, Henstead alongside a developing career as an educational consultant in teaching maths and the publication of his first book, How to Teach Primary Mathematics. Also found time to marry Rachel, and their daughter is at the nursery. Wants the school to be an ’open place, welcoming to pupils and their families’.

Has incredible energy: besides running the prep department and being a member of the high school’s senior management team, he continues to teach various age groups science, drama and games, runs weekly book clubs for years 3 and 6, meets and helps assess all potential pupils and continues with his writing career. ‘Be bold, be brave, be beautiful’ is (one of) the mantras in his drive to encourage confidence in the girls. ‘Schools are great at mission statements but these don’t mean much to 5-year olds.' Is very aware of pressures society places on girls and since girls’ needs ’always come first here, they have the chance to learn from mistakes, to develop resilience and the confidence to know who they are, and that it is the small things that matter and can make the difference’. Parents very enthusiastic: ‘He has made such a difference.’ Pupils just as keen: ‘He wants us to be ourselves – no identikit girls here!’


Key entry points are 4+, 7+ and 11+, though places are usually available at other stages. Selection for reception and years 1 and 2 is through informal play and general assessment. For year 3 and above, prospective pupils spend a day at the school where they have an interview with the headmaster and do assessments in English, maths and reasoning. For the seniors (11+, 13+) pupils sit an entrance exam in the spring term in English, maths and reasoning and are interviewed in pairs, often by Mrs von Malaisé. Reports are requested from current schools.


At 11+ close to 100 per cent move up to the senior school. After GCSE around a quarter depart for pastures new – mostly local sixth form colleges, Norwich School, Wymondham College or, occasionally, boarding schools further afield. Post A level, most to good universities to read sensible subjects – eg law, medicine, sciences generally, geography, English. Numbers to Oxbridge fluctuate, usually three or four. Warwick, Edinburgh, York, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield all popular and the odd one overseas. Small group of gifted pupils depart for prestigious art, drama and music colleges each year. Plenty of guidance and advice about choices, including post A level after-sales service.

Teaching and learning

Consistently high levels of achievement across the board. In 2019, 65 per cent A*-A/9-7 at GCSE and 37 per cent A*/A (61 per cent A*-B) at A level. Maths, English, the sciences and humanities particularly outstanding at GCSE. With rare exceptions, all girls take a foreign language up to GCSE – majority do French but German, Mandarin and Greek also on offer. Everyone in the senior school does Latin until year 9 with about 20 per cent taking it as an option at GCSE. Top maths set (currently 29, the largest) also take additional maths at GCSE. At A level, chemistry and maths lead the popularity stakes but, ’It’s not a sausage machine for medical school, they are just as delighted with success in the arts,’ said a parent. Maths, geography, Latin and art and languages also have exceptional results. Most take the EPQ.

‘We are selective, but not super selective, we have quite a broad intake,’ says head and the prep headmaster agrees, ’There are very few girls who won’t flourish and do well here.’ Girls are encouraged to choose the options that really interest them, even if that means contortions with the timetable and at A level, even more so. ’Whether it is further maths, Greek or art we want the girls to follow their own path’. Success is thanks to ‘the staff,’ chorus pupils and parents. ’Always ready to give extra help’; ‘Really went the extra mile to help my daughter when she was struggling at one stage’; ’Some outstanding subject teaching’.

The Inspiring Females programme is fully embedded in the school curriculum. The main aim of the programme is to inspire girls, educating them as to what is new in the world of careers as well as helping them access the traditional routes, and empowering them to make wise and confident decisions about their futures. Key to its ethos is presenting the authentic experiences of women at all stages of their careers and lives, through a variety of different events which are all shaped by the girls.

In the prep school girls are well supported in small classes (usually 15) and the idea that ’it is better to have a go and not quite manage it, than not to try at all,’ says Mr Tiley-Nunn. Pupils are class taught throughout the prep with specialist subject teaching in music, games and modern languages from the start. The school has recently introduced mixed ability teaching in maths, which ’has been a game-changer in changing girls’ perceptions of their own ability,’ says head.

Modest numbers require extra learning support – mostly mild dyslexia or other reading difficulties – usually dealt with in class in the prep, with some withdrawal for group or one-to-one help in the seniors. As all girls have their own iPads from year 5, ‘it is easy to change background colours which helps some,’ and subject staff are all kept well informed. Reading is ‘the best habit any child can have,’ says Nick Tiley-Nunn, who leads by example running a book club in his study which closely resembles an independent bookshop, with piles of enticing new books on every surface. Excellent libraries in both prep and senior schools, permanently staffed, open at lunchtimes and after school. There are also regular visits from nationally known authors and book clubs proliferate. ‘Reading is cool,’ say the girls.


Outstanding sports provision on site including 25m pool (just refurbed), grass tennis courts, outdoor pitches and a sports hall. One whole afternoon a week is devoted to sport: 'It enables matches to take place and means we can cater for a far wider range of activities’. Girls excel – indeed are often the local and regional champions - at all the usual team games, netball, hockey, and tennis, and now cricket and football have been introduced to wild approval. ’Rounders seems a bit wet by comparison, though we like that too.’ (They are currently the U11 champions.) Rowing, golf, sailing and riding are all on offer – girls travel in a fleet of minibuses to the Broads and the UEA, all close at hand. School has grasped that not everyone is games mad, so ’we can choose other things like zumba, golf and keep fit, especially in higher forms, but most of us still love team games’. School has produced several renowned athletes and Olympic champions in rowing, swimming and cycling. Games kit has undergone a transformation; ’It was still green knickers and aertex shirts when I arrived - I thought I had come to Malory Towers!’ remarked a sixth former. The navy tracksuits with a discreet logo mean ’you can walk home through town and not get stared at,’ said a local mother.

Thriving art department, DT and textiles also extremely popular. Great majority of girls choose at least one of these at GCSE and significant numbers continue with art to A level. ’It is just as encouraged as the more so-called academic subjects,’ said a sixth former and several girls each year go on to study fine arts and design. Lovely high-ceilinged art studio. The annual summer fashion show with girls showing and modelling their creations is very popular. The theme this year, Domestic Bliss (in an ironic way, of course), a resounding success.

Drama is taught by specialist staff in many instances throughout the school and has a high take up at GCSE and A level. ’Super drama teachers, everyone can get involved – they are not just interested in the next Maggie Smith,’ said a parent. Shakespeare, Greek drama and Restoration comedies regularly staged either in the main hall or the drama studio (there are plans for a dance and performance studio). Since appointing a head of performing arts two years ago there has been an expansion in the range of musical productions, as well as more serious drama, and means more girls are involved.

Music has a proud history and is taught by specialists throughout the prep and seniors. Many girls have individual instrumental tuition (lessons usually timetabled for lunch and break times) and revel in the opportunities to perform; few girls are not involved in one or other of the choirs, orchestras, jazz and concert bands or string ensembles (headmistress coaches) which mostly rehearse after school. ’It’s quite a job to fit it all in, especially at Christmas and concert times,’ said a parent. There is a winter arts festival, a major choral concert and carol service annually plus smaller recitals and concerts throughout the year. Despite this, only small numbers take music at GCSE and hardly any at A level.

DofE well supported with practically everyone doing the bronze award, and though numbers decline there is usually a strong cohort of at least 20 at gold level. Community involvement is encouraged from the start, carol singing at nearby old peoples’ homes, the pantomimes performed at local schools by year 8s (organised by sixth formers) and various charity initiatives (the prep recently ran a Grow a Pound scheme to raise money for the local hospital, with puppy walking and sales of grown herbs some of the activities). There is a Stafford House (prep school) Brownie pack, ‘wildly popular with a waiting list as long as your arm,’ say staff.

Outdoor learning on a high: prep school girls are cultivating produce in a polytunnel, ready to sell as snacks in their shop, and senior girls are clearing Dingly-Dell to plant an apple orchard.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1875, the first of the GDST schools outside London. Occupies a desirable site on the Newmarket Road – the tree-lined main road into Norwich - centred on two mansions, Eaton Grove (seniors) and Stafford House (prep). A brisk 15-minute walk into the city centre means local school expeditions are easily arranged and many girls arrive on foot. Previously only glimpsed from the top deck of a bus, Eaton Grove can now be seen well from the road, its magnificent Regency façade a delight, thanks to an extensive pruning programme. ‘We were rather hidden away,’ says Mrs von Malaisé, who wants the school to be more visible. Stafford House is closer to the side road and very accessible for parents collecting.

Both main buildings have had extensions, mostly sympathetic, over the years and there is a sports complex, sixth form building and separate nursery called the Polliwiggles (Norfolk speak for tadpoles) mostly set around the Big Pitch, quadrangle style. Stafford House, though on the same site, has its own distinct area - surrounded by a playground and a forest school. Everything well cared for and scarcely any litter to be seen. There has been a serious programme of redecoration throughout.

At Eaton Grove, each classroom has a coloured wall eg green for geography, mostly polished wood floors and a traditional assembly hall with a stage and balcony. Excellent IT provision in The Hub and decent changing areas and loos – girls have their own lockers, usually in their tutor rooms. Cheerful hubbub at change of lessons, ’timed to give us a chance to get to wherever we are next – and a breather!’ but no pushing or barging through doors.

Stafford House, the prep school, is on a (comparatively) smaller scale but offers similar surroundings, well-proportioned, airy classrooms, plenty of IT, a magnificent staircase and a good-sized hall. There are specialist art, science and music facilities and a transformed library with treehouse seating.

Lanchester House is home to the sixth form. Yet another converted mansion (though rather less aesthetically pleasing – blame fire regulations), it provides excellent study spaces – library, study booths for two or three, take your pick, common room, classrooms and a café; it even has a roof terrace.

Despite separate buildings, relationships at the school are strong and affectionate. Senior girls often visit Stafford House – sometimes for a reassuring chat, often to help with events, or (sixth formers) with reading. Old girls and parents return again and again for events and concerts and the bonds remain long after leaving. ’I was lucky to go there, I still have friends from Stafford House days’ and ‘You really learn how important friendship is’ (this from an octogenarian); staff seem equally attached. The cathedral was packed for the funeral of a highly esteemed former headmistress (aged 98); easy to spot the many old girls - no one needed to look at the words for Bunyan’s To be a Pilgrim – the school hymn.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Beginning at the prep stage, girls are ’cherished and encouraged to discover who they are,’ says the headmaster. ‘We want the girls to think their own thoughts, not just go with the herd.’ Parents say, ‘They really care about the girls, staff are always ready to meet you and talk if there is a problem.’ Not much slips through the net. Small classes mean staff know girls well and parents are encouraged to be involved. Moving up to the seniors is carefully managed with taster afternoons beforehand; chances for the new intake to mix with the ‘home grown’ girls and meet staff. A greatly beloved head of year 7 gives girls a strong start.

Traditional uniform - tartan kilts and navy blazers, patterned green frocks in the summer - worn up to sixth form, when girls can choose their own clothes. Compulsory school lunch until year 11, ’The food is pretty good, plenty of choices,’ say girls, though we saw pupils with nothing but pasta on their plates. No prefects as such but sixth formers have leadership roles running clubs and societies and the Companies (houses) which girls belong to for sport, musical contests and other school events.

Form tutors travel up the school with their form. Heads of year deal with any day to day problems and girls all know someone they can go to if in difficulty. There is a school counsellor and a nurse who girls can see on their own initiative and lots do; ’She has a toaster and microwave in her room and you can eat your lunch in there and talk,’ we were told. The Big Sister programme is another scheme to help girls have someone to turn to for help with ’friendship problems mostly,’ said a sixth former. Form groups are swapped about at the end of year 8, the aim being to break up any developing cliques and give girls a chance to make new friends. This does cause a few grumbles from girls - ’I liked the form I was in already’ - but most see the point of being mixed up. In the sixth form girls are in vertical forms so plenty of opportunity to make friends beyond subject sets and year groups. Negotiating adolescence, exams and the world beyond school are all subjects tackled in PSHE lessons and girls feel ’there is a general air of acceptance, it’s alright to be who you are'. Staff know the girls well.

Pupils and parents

‘You can always tell a high school girl,’ said a former parent and local businessman. ‘They are intelligent and fun and not afraid to speak their minds.’ ‘Unsnobbish parents, anyone can fit in’; ’girls as bright as buttons but not too full of themselves’ were comments from parents and former pupils. Several girls (past and present) spoke of the school ’helping me discover who I am – there were no barriers.’ Girls and their parents often make friends for life, and significant numbers of pupils are daughters of old girls, though rather fewer than in times past. Families come from Norfolk and north Suffolk, the majority from within a 15-mile radius – lots by bus or train but school is well positioned for dropping off. Parents mostly local professional, academic, medical and business including some farming and a smattering of old ‘county’ families. More ethnically diverse than is typical for the area, though very few for whom English is their second language.

Former pupils include authors Nina Bawden, Jane Hissey, Stella Tillyard and Rafaella Barker, singer Elizabeth Watts and the actor Olivia Colman; also, several sportswomen such as Emma Pooley and Victoria Williamson (cycling) Sophie Hemming (rugby) and most celebrated of all: nurse Edith Cavell.

Money matters

The GDST keeps fees at relatively modest levels and the school is seen locally as ’good value for money’. Academic and music scholarships offered at 11+: art, music, drama academic and sports scholarships at 16 + and these can be topped up with bursaries, if necessary. Bursaries not confined to scholars but available generally on a means-tested basis. Around half the school receives help of some kind, full remission of fees on occasion but be prepared (rightly) for searching questions to decide eligibility. School lunches charged for separately but few other extras apart from individual instrumental lessons. The school runs a secondhand uniform shop.

The last word

The lively, sympathetic atmosphere makes this an excellent choice for bright, energetic girls who want to enter fully into the life of the school and all it has to offer.

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.

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