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Best suited to the more motivated girl, but that doesn’t mean they’re all brainboxes: ‘My daughter won’t set the world alight with her results, and is currently in bottom set for maths, but she’s happy there because it’s a class of six and her confidence is growing because of that.’ The GCSE artwork on display was evidence that the head of art is keeping her promise of encouraging self-expression. ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ proclaimed one thought-provoking piece that questioned if, for example, make-up is a mask and housework deadens the soul. Sculpture, drawing, digital, printing, photography all present and correct. Sport is undoubtedly a strength, and that goes for the elite end too. As for whether the school is a comfortable place for the less sporty…

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What the school says...

Northampton High School 11+ entrance examinations consist of: maths and English multiple choice papers. No past papers given but practice papers can be bought from high street retailers and via the internet.

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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.


Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since July 2022, Dr May Lee, previously director of sixth form and outreach at Queen’s Gate School, London. Grew up in Hong Kong, read geography at King’s College London and has a PhD in urban rivers and engineering. Independent girls’ schools are all she’s known, having attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College as a boarder, then – after qualifying as a teacher through the Graduate Teacher Programme – working across three independent girls’ day schools. Adamant that a single-sex environment allows girls to be ‘free from stereotypes’ and ‘able to express their opinions with conviction’, a philosophy parents and students strongly support. She pounced at the chance of landing this role – she’d been looking to move to Northampton, where her husband has strong family roots, and it is the only independent girls’ school in the county. No wonder she looks pleased.

‘Quiet’ was the most common description we heard of this business-like head: ‘quietly confident’, ‘quietly spoken’, ‘quietly strong’ etc. Must be a first. Still, parents see this is as her superpower, and this more serene style of role modelling must certainly be reassuring for less alpha girls. We loved how she instantly handed the floor over to the girls in an assembly - in this case, a newly elected team of year 12 leaders.

Very visible, she teaches geography, spends over an hour a week doing the ‘learning walk’ (popping into random lessons) and she regularly lunches with the girls: ‘Sharing food is such a lovely, light-touch way to chat.’ Every parent, bar none, wanted to tell us how she turned up to see the girls off on their annual ski trip at ‘silly o’clock’ – ‘She didn’t have to do that.’

Sat on the sofa of her minimalist, upscale office, she talked us through her ‘happy wall’, where framed prints include a paddle board (‘When in doubt, paddle it out!’ is my motto; she’s also a stand-up paddle-boarder herself) and the Sussex coastline (‘As a geographer, I adore the coast’). There’s also an African elephant (‘Symbolising how big, yet interconnected, the world is’). In her spare time, she and her husband seem to do their best to discover as much of it as they can – including recent travels to Caribbean, Far East, and the Indian Ocean, as well as visiting her family in Hong Kong. She also enjoys running, reading biographies and gardening.


Over 95 (often 100) per cent of girls move up from the junior school, joined by up to 50 girls from local preps and state schools. All take Atom Learning assessments in English, maths, VR and NVR – as do the few that join in year 9, as well as the growing numbers joining mid-year anytime up to year 10. Up to 10 girls join in the sixth form, mainly from state but interestingly some from mixed independents. Candidates need at least six GCSEs at grade 7 or above; each A level subject will have its own grade requirement of at least a 6, also required in English Language. All girls are interviewed, no matter when they join.


Around 60 per cent retention at year 11, the rest leaving due to relocation, for mixed state sixth forms (often for financial reasons) or to board. The odd one takes a more vocational direction, eg equestrian. Virtually all sixth formers to university, three-quarters to Russell Group. Nottingham, Birmingham, Southampton and Bristol all popular. The odd one to Oxbridge and to university overseas in some years, but none in 2023. Some go for medical or healthcare related degrees, many following in the footsteps of their parents (six medics in 2023). Other than that, a dizzying array of subjects, from astrophysics to zoology. Pupils praise careers advice and university application support; GDST sources internships and work experience. We felt the school was rather dismissive of degree apprenticeships (although school says they have had significant successes with these in the past).

Latest results

 In 2023, 61 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 44 per cent A*/A at A level (76 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 59 per cent 9-7 at GCSE, 39 per cent A*/A at A level (70 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Robust but not pressurised, say parents, with tons of support including revision and drop-in clubs. Flexible too: ‘My daughter changed her mind about one of her A level options last minute and both departments were so accommodating. Two weeks later, she changed back, and again they were fine about it, having let her make her own mind up after trying out the lessons.’

Best suited to the more motivated girl, but that doesn’t mean they’re all brainboxes: ‘My daughter won’t set the world alight with her results, and is currently in bottom set for maths, but she’s happy there because it’s a class of six and her confidence is growing because of that.’ Lots of reports of ‘stretch and challenge, wherever you’re at’. Small school and small classes – max 24 (15 at sixth form), but generally below 20 (10 in sixth form) – mean teachers know the girls, ‘and that includes our learning styles,’ said one girl. A few grumbles about too much homework – ‘You get homework even when you you’re revising for exams!’ groaned one – but parents, most of whom choose the school for the academics, disagree: ‘Bring it on!’ exclaimed one.

All hail the languages department, where girls say the teaching rocks. Options of French, German and Spanish on rotation from year 7, from which girls pick two in year 8. Latin from year 7, and Greek is offered at sixth form. At least one language must be taken at GCSE, and many take more. Majority take triple science. No weak subjects, but maths and history shine brightest on results day. Food tech popular – and taught throughout. Setting only in maths, from year 7.

STEM subjects get the biggest take-up, and do best, at A level. Vast majority take three subjects, the odd one four (usually for further maths or a language). Trad options only, but the girls don’t mind – they felt it was a massive coup to have economics, business studies and psychology on the menu. No BTECs – ‘A levels open doors,’ insists head. Around 70 per cent take EPQ, all done and dusted by the end of lower sixth.

School is well laid-out, with corridors dedicated to different subjects. Learning vibe is relaxed but focused. ‘Remember mistakes allow thinking to happen,’ some students were reminded on our tour, and we were impressed by the variety of teaching styles – using coloured beads in physics, quick-fire questions about a recent coastline trip in geography and leaving no stone unturned in ensuring students in a lower maths set grasped Pythagorean theorem. Recent ‘10 per cent braver’ agenda working well in encouraging girls to put their hands up and say, ‘I don’t know the answer, but I’ll have a go anyway.’

Learning support and SEN

Our tour guides proudly pointed out the colourful umbrellas hanging from the vast school reception, part of the Umbrella Project that raises awareness around neurodiversity; it’s clearly doing the trick. Around 19 per cent on the SEN register, so the one full-time SENCo, shared across junior and senior school, must have her work cut out. All pupils have a learning enhancement profile, shared with teachers. One-to-ones available at no extra cost, but rare ‘because our teachers are experts’. One parent of a girl receiving support said she ‘has really benefited from smaller classes’ and that the ‘support from the amazing SENCo has been second to none.’ ‘Always on-hand,’ we heard, and excels at ‘forward planning’. Any related anxiety is ‘never swept under the carpet – they are just brilliant in dealing with that,’ added a parent. Around five per cent of pupils with EAL but only around a quarter have extra support. Gifted and talented spotted young and nurtured.

The arts and extracurricular

The GCSE artwork on display was evidence that the head of art is keeping her promise of encouraging self-expression. ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ proclaimed one thought-provoking piece that questioned if, for example, make-up is a mask and housework deadens the soul. Sculpture, drawing, digital, printing, photography all present and correct. Fabulous facilities, all drenched in natural light, and with special sixth form area. ‘They guide them so well – my daughter’s techniques have come on leaps and bounds,’ said a parent. Outstanding textiles too, taught as separate subject – we’d strongly advise taking the time to check out the fashion garments dotted around the school on mannequins. Several girls yearn to work in the fashion industry, and do just that. DT popular.

One girl, who had recently joined from a state school, couldn’t believe her luck when she fell upon the large music department, ‘with so many practice rooms!’ She told us,’ ‘They use them to send you off into little groups to compose – it’s amazing.’ Around a third of pupils learn a musical instrument, and there’s good take-up for the various choirs, ensembles and whole-school orchestra. Girls can try out instruments – one parent said her daughter had tried ‘piano, recorder, ukelele and she’s just about to start the guitar’. Inclusive ethos, with music ‘getting more modern – it needed to’. Some girls would like more opportunities to perform.

There was great excitement about the upcoming annual whole-school musical, The Wizard of Oz, during our visit. Smaller performances also plentiful – and if treading boards isn’t your bag, there are plenty of backstage opportunities, including directing. Drama A level back on the menu the year we visited – but some years, there aren’t enough students to run it. Good take-up for LAMDA. Black box studio well used.

Expectation for all girls to join at least two clubs up until the GCSE years. Not that they need persuading. Older ones often run their own clubs, or use the time to take up a new language, eg Chinese. Coding, chess, Zombie club (biology) and eco club all popular. Most run at lunchtimes, with sports clubs after school. DofE to gold.

Local, national and international trips aplenty. The biennial ski trip – Europe, USA or Canada – is a highlight. Also recently Normandy (languages), Lake District (outward bound), Lucerne (physics) and Vietnam (World Challenge).


Undoubtedly a strength, and that goes for the elite end too. As for whether the school is a comfortable place for the less sporty, the jury is out. ‘I was surprised by just how much of a sporty school it is, and I think you’d feel the pressure from the other girls if you didn’t try really hard to do well,’ reckoned one parent, whereas another felt, ‘My girls aren’t into sport at all and that’s been absolutely fine.’ One thing’s for sure – they’ve got all the gear, thanks to spacious sports complex housing pool (swimming is big here), sports hall, squash courts, dance studio and an enviably large gym that one parent described as ‘a real stress buster’. Hockey, netball and cricket are the main sports, with A-D teams regularly fielded. And make no mistake, these girls play to win – very successfully too, judging from the silverware (especially for hockey). Tennis, badminton, yoga, volleyball, football, rounders etc all available, and school’s partnership with local pony club means equestrian is on the up, with up to 20 girls regularly competing. No rugby or basketball on curriculum, to the disappointment of some (although school points out they do run them as clubs).

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1878 in the middle of Northampton by a group of local church people, eventually becoming a grammar school, then going independent in the 1970s on the abolition of the direct grant system. Moved to purpose-built site in the village of Hardingstone, on the outskirts of Northampton, in 1992. Now being incorporated into the urban sprawl of the town, but not to the school’s detriment, and development can only mean more pupils.

School site still looks modern and fresh, although head would like to upgrade the library (we’ve seen a lot worse) and Astro. Beautifully maintained and sensibly laid out in a figure of eight (with two courtyards in the middle), it flows well with large, bright classrooms. You can’t help but be struck by the feeling of space, even in the dining room – no mean feat as this is shared with juniors (it’s cleverly the point at which the junior and senior schools join up). Ten out of 10 for the food – ramen was the special on the week we visited, and the super salad bar and deli is a hit, including with the staff, most of whom choose to eat with the students (sixth formers less so as their common room serves up the exceptionally popular paninis).

Right outside the dining room is the nursery playground, so the youngsters take great delight in waving to the older girls. All helps with the all-through vibe, which is also encouraged by whole-school events (eg dance festival, Christmas concert, assemblies) and the Big Sister Little Sister programme, which gets older girls coming in to help with reading, art or just chatting. Good whole-school house system too.

Several parents told us they were drawn to the ‘air of professionalism’ here. ‘They greet you instantly and everything is very organised and neat and tidy,’ felt one. A slick operation indeed. For the girls, it is the ‘room to grow’ that they feel stands out – ‘They make you feel you can be anything at all, and you can really develop into yourself.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Wellbeing HQ is the big news here. Shared between juniors and seniors, this calming space has it all – beanbags, mindfulness colouring books and Lego, plus private rooms where girls can book in a chat with the famous Mrs G, the wellbeing practitioner, loved by all – including the parents. It’s all part of the school’s efforts to remove the stigma from fear and anxiety – a ‘just come along and chat things through so they don’t build up’ ethos. There’s a visiting counsellor too – school will fund six sessions, then parents have to get out their chequebooks.

As the school is small, teachers know the girls, and they get the same form tutor from years 7 to 11, although a couple of girls said, ‘There’s no way I’d talk to mine.’ Still, parents and girls praise the overall atmosphere as ‘caring’ and ‘supportive’. One parent, whose daughter had some mental health issues, told us, ‘The school was incredible – I felt like they were one step ahead of me and managed to nip everything in the bud before anything could escalate.’

One parent, whose daughter joined in sixth form, said she’d been worried about making friendships in a school where many girls had known each other since age 2 – ‘but she found likeminded friends quickly, and everyone was welcoming.’ Of course, you always get characters and cliques in a single-sex school, pointed out another parent, ‘but some years are better than others and it’s not the school’s fault.’ Girls feel the anti-bullying messaging is on point and that ‘the teachers never turn a blind eye to friendship problems.’ We wondered if the school could be more proactive around self-harm, eating disorders etc – girls told us these issues aren’t mentioned until sixth form, although ‘we got a whole term on anti-drugs.’ (School says, ‘We do deliver age-appropriate content as part of the PSHE curriculum throughout the school, in line with our statutory requirements.’)

Current head has clamped down on uniform and phones (the latter not to be seen or heard in school hours). Both have ruffled a few feathers among students, some of whom took particular umbrage about having to wear tracksuit bottoms over their skorts when not playing sports – one said she was horrified upon being told it was ‘because there are male teachers’. Detentions reasonably rare, and no temporary or permanent exclusions under current headship.

FemSoc incorporates LGBTQ+, and girls praise the ethnic diversity of the school, which reflects the local geography.

Pupils and parents

Girls are chatty, smart and sophisticated. It was almost a relief to see one older group get a serious case of the giggles. A fleet of minibuses brings them in from as far afield as Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. Parents are a real mix – from hardcore country set, including second and third generation pupils, to medics (lots), academics and businessfolk. Many work all hours, and forgo holidays, to send their girls here. All are very pro single-sex education and mix well, although some parents told us they would like a parents’ association. Many feel comms could be ‘less scattered and more focused’ – the school wasn’t surprised to hear this, claiming that it comes down to the added layer of GDST. Class WhatsApp groups ‘not as ranty as you’d think,’ said a parent – ‘Sometimes parents have a moan but other parents quite often have an opposing argument.’

Money matters

Up to 10 per cent of girls are on means-tested bursaries of up to 100 per cent, offered through the GDST from year 7. Two HSBC scholarships of full fees to girls from the state sector. Scholarships for ‘flair spirit and reach’ – no fee remittance, but you get £500 a year to spend on learning development.

The last word

A small, polished and spacious school known for its academics and sports, but that offers so much more. With plenty of girls spending their whole school life on one site, there’s a real feeling of community and a journey of learning. These girls, along with the many others who join along the way, praise the friendly vibe, supportive staff and overall focus on empowering well-rounded young women of the future.

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

SEN is a whole school issue. The school's aims are to provide equal opportunities to develop all students' talents and abilities to their full potential, ensuring that students with special educational needs have full access to the curriculum. With this in mind, these aims are met through a whole-school approach to special needs provision with all teaching staff taking responsibility for meeting individual needs. Additional support is available from the learning enhancement department who provide support in class, individual and group sessions.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
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
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

Who came from where

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