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Based around two courtyards; you walk in a full circle. ‘You don’t get lost because if you keep walking you end up back where you started,’ said our guide. One courtyard used for seating, the other for experiments along with a greenhouse. Excellent artwork on show with lots of choice from sculpting, to drawing, to photography.  Mention must go to the textiles work.  It’s not ordinary run of the mill stuff but high fashion and high standards.  Younger girls were making make up bags, having designed their own fabric first..

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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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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.

Sports

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

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since 2015, Dr Helen Stringer (50s). History at Bristol followed by doctorate from Sussex and PGCE in London. Vast years' experience of teaching girls, most recently at Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge; this is her first headship. Knew she wanted to teach. Quickly realised she loved teaching girls: ‘I’m passionate about opportunities for women and education opens doors for them.’ Likens education to gardening, ‘sow the seed and nurture.’

Small, softly spoken, and quietly unassuming, but a true leader with a deep passion and conviction. Parents ooze enthusiasm: ‘My daughters would follow her through fire’; ‘She’s enthusiastic and generous; the school was lucky to find her.’ Parents talked about the subtle changes she has made. ‘She looks outwards, has got more involved with the community and raised the profile of the school.’ ‘She’s a great leader and a fabulous head.’ Parents describe her as ‘friendly, approachable and inspirational.’ We could see that. She’s sees the broader picture, the empowerment of women and life after education. Holds tea parties: every girl will be invited to attend at least once a year, about six at a time, when they set their own agenda and chat about anything, be it dreams, politics or life. Still teaching year 9, ‘I like to keep my hand in.’ Very aware of the power of social media, and the downfalls, but embracing it.

Head of junior school since September 2019 is Chris Bailey, previously co-head at the British School (Junior School) in the Netherlands. Music degree from Leeds; began his career teaching English in Japan then taught in Hall Meadow Primary School in Kettering, becoming deputy head in 2011. He joined the British School in The Hague in 2013.

Academic matters

In 2018, 53 per cent 9-7 at GCSE, 74 per cent A*-B at A level, 51 per cent A*/A. Plenty of languages on offer, French, German, Spanish, Latin and Greek, up to A level. Virtually all girls take one language, many two and the odd one three. Girls set from year 7. Parents kept up to date with academic progress and speak highly of ‘inspirational teachers.’ Lots of revision and drop in clubs, and huge support for girls. Pupils happy to approach staff for extra help. They get quick responses to emails; all said staff ‘went the extra mile' in both schools and all said how well staff knew their daughters.

Lots of excellent facilities including libraries and IT areas. Lessons showed good interaction between girls and teachers. A very relaxed air, but focused, and importantly, happy. As the school is relatively modern, lay out is good with separate blocks for subjects. Parents appreciate the small class sizes, up to 20 in junior, 24 in lower senior, 20 in upper years and 15 in sixth form.

Junior school follows same ethos. Happy, perky girls. Our guides were an inspiration, full of fun and confidence but knew what they were about. Girls taught in class with subject teachers dipping in and out. They get a good start here, setting them up for the more academic teaching at the senior school.

Sixth form girls drift serenely around the school. Not overly smart in faux business suits but fit for purpose. They have a separate block with lots of quiet areas to study. Humanities and sciences equally distributed at A level – good to see. Lots of support for girls for UCAS; teachers obviously know girls very well and vice versa. University interview practice sessions on offer.

Not a huge number of SEN students, but well supported with individual education plans and parents very happy with outcome. One-to-one tuition if necessary, group tuition for most with all staff aware of needs. Some 59 pupils with EAL status but only 15 have extra support. Gifted and talented spotted young and nurtured.

Games, options, the arts

Huge sports complex offers something for everyone. Impressive, recently updated pavilion with fabulous viewing area and communal meeting place. Senior girls offered the usual, hockey, netball et al but also boxercise, yoga and spinning popular. Girls play football and if they ask for a sport they are given a chance to try it. Rugby was mooted so the local premiership team, Northampton Saints, was coerced to offer a masterclass. Rounders and volleyball teams as well. Plenty of silverware in the cupboard. They have a Paralympian swimmer and a county champion shooter. Sport encouraged in whatever form. All this competitiveness perhaps rubs off from the junior school - remember who the head is - and sport actively encouraged there, particularly ball team sports including cricket. Pity they don’t have a basketball team. Lots of clubs and practices, and plenty of teams.

Excellent artwork on show with lots of choice, from sculpting to drawing to photography. We must mention the textiles work: not ordinary, run of the mill stuff but high fashion and high standards. Younger girls were making make up bags, having designed their own fabric first. Clever use of Photoshop and computing skills integrated here.

Music popular throughout the schools. Large music area and lots of practice rooms. Some 170+ girls have timetabled music lessons. Bands, choirs, orchestras galore, and well supported. Drama also popular with a large studio on site. Girls encouraged to use the lighting and behind scenes as well as act. A through school production annually, along with lots of other smaller scale performances throughout the year groups. As well as drama clubs there are others on offer such as knitting, engineering, debating - you name it, they’ve thought of it. ‘There is too much choice,’ said one mother; ‘my girls want to do everything!’

Plenty of school trips including annual skiing. DofE to gold. Before and after-school clubs. Many parents drop off at 7.30am to catch the London train.

Background and atmosphere

Established in 1878, initially based in the middle of Northampton. In 1992 moved to the purpose built site in the village of Hardingstone on the outskirts of Northampton. Now being incorporated into the urban sprawl of the town, but not to the school’s detriment and development can only mean more pupils. Despite being 25 years old the school site still looks new. Beautifully maintained and sensibly laid out, it flows well with large, bright classrooms and plenty of communal space. Based around two courtyards. ‘You don’t get lost because if you keep walking you end up back where you started,’ said our guide. One courtyard used for seating, the other for experiments, along with a greenhouse. Everything is spacious and spread out. Junior school has its own science lab, art and food tech rooms and IT suite. A forest school for the juniors, numerous playgrounds, and a car park for sixth formers. Please note the spade taking pride of place in the boardroom. The Queen used this when she officially opened the new school and planted a tree. Sadly the tree did not fare as well as the preserved spade.

The dining area is central and shared by both schools. It was curry Thursday, poppadoms were piled high and all girls spoke of high culinary standards. And right outside is the nursery playground in a courtyard, which is at the heart of the school, so the youngsters take great delight in waving to the older girls. ‘Once a High School girl, always a High School girl,’ was said by girls and parents, and we can see why.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The school is small so teachers know the girls well and parents spoke of excellent pastoral care, recently improved due to parental input. Girls have the same form tutor from years 7-11, ‘they are super supportive,’ having one-to-one tutorials and turning to them first in times of need. ‘The girls are not aware how closely they are being monitored,’ said the head. All teaching and non-teaching staff across both schools have teenage mental health training, and are quick to spot any problems. School well aware of pressures and problems that can develop. The girls now have ‘life lessons,’ including money/health/relationships/friendships; one parent said, ‘My daughter complains about yet another PHSD lesson, but the message is getting across.’ Even parents are involved, invited to ‘living with teenagers’ talks. Girls can email the counsellor direct.

One parent said, ‘according to my daughters they could be stricter with some girls,’ but they were very much an exception. ‘The girls are encouraged to communicate with each other and work through problems,’ said another parent; ‘there is little interference from the school unless it is absolutely necessary, which is the way it should be. It means the girls feel empowered sorting themselves out, a good lesson for life.’ It was made clear that the school closely monitors these situations.

A strong mentoring system. Year 11 girls mentor the year 6s so they have a familiar face to turn to when they join the senior school the following year. Seems to work well and the girls have fun at the same time. Girls are happy at school: ‘they love being there,’ said parents, who spoke about the girls being empowered - this word pops up a lot. School council powerful. Uniforms were changed at their request, sixth form common room upgraded and internal messaging rethought.

Girls taught to embrace and negotiate social media. ‘The girls are building their own [LinkedIn] profiles so when they leave they are well on the way to being successful women,’ said the head. They are also being taught social skills, how to work a room and join and leave conversations, excellent. Girls are encouraged to use their phones within lessons, albeit supervised, but phones are strictly banned at lunch time. ‘We need to talk to each other,’ said one of our guides. One parent not so keen on phone use: ‘I wish they didn’t use their phones at school, they are too much of a distraction.’ But the head realises it’s a sign of the times. As part of the GDST the school encourages the girls to network with other schools that are part of the Trust.

Pupils and parents

Girls come from a wide area, as far afield as Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire. An eclectic mix of parents and girls. Hard core of county set, many of which are second and third generation pupils. Town represented by a more diverse mix of medics, professionals, academics and London businesspeople. All mix well together. Parents very supportive and very pro single sex education. Many families making huge sacrifices to educate their daughters. Girls are bright, friendly and welcoming. The tight-nit community is very apparent. ‘My daughter loves being there and has a tight group of friends,’ said many parents. ‘The heritage of the school and its reputation spoke for itself,’ said one mother. ‘I was meeting confident, yet humble, academically achieving girls and wanted that for my daughter.’

Entrance

From 2+ into the nursery, with priority places at the junior school – just over half take a place. No assessment for reception places; applicants for years 1-6 spend a day or morning at the school with their classmates and are assessed; school will say no if they do not feel it is right for a girl, despite having spaces.

More-or-less automatic entry to the senior school from year 6. The odd one or two don’t make the grade, parents kept in the loop. Large influx of girls, up to 40, into year 7 from local preps and state schools. Up to 20 girls join in the sixth form, mainly from state but interestingly some from mixed independents. Five GCSEs at grade 6 or above to include maths and English with subject-specific grades for more academic subjects. Numbers have struggled in the junior school but are now growing, numbers stable in senior and increasing in sixth form.

Exit

Some 90 per cent move up to the senior school, the other 10 per cent to grammar schools out of county and the occasional boarder. Around 65 per cent retention at year 11, the 35 per cent leave for mixed state sixth forms or to board, the odd one kindly guided in a more vocational direction.

Virtually all girls go to university but apprenticeships being actively embraced with the GDST sourcing internships and work experience. Subjects studied show eclectic mix, mainly at Russell Groups. Five to Cambridge and eight medics in 2018; others to eg Birmingham, Durham, Exeter, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Warwick and York.

Money matters

Scholarships and bursaries offered through the GDST from year 7. Means-tested bursaries available as well as two HSBC scholarships of full fees to girls from the state sector.

Our view

A small school becoming stronger thanks to the current head. Girls can spend the whole of their school years on one site, and many do. Offering much more than just an education, these girls are being set up for life. Empowered, well rounded young women who will be smashing glass ceilings as they make their way through life.

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
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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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