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Natty purple berets, charming purple checked and striped uniform, purple website, purple chairs and folders in the class rooms, purple benches and tables in the playground as well as the purple scooters that the girls arrive on. The post 11+ programme includes touch typing, Latin and lots of public speaking eg balloon debating competitions against other schools. Lots of music – and the twice weekly music assemblies can feature anything from Bollywood dancing to a harp recital. This school is no slouch when it comes to…

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since 2012, Sarah Knollys (rhymes with tolls) BA PGCE (40s), educated at Exeter (a degree in French and Italian) and Roehampton Universities. Started teaching career as SEN assistant at Finton House; rose from form teacher to maths co-ordinator, SCITT mentor, key stage 2 manager, senior management team and school governor at Allfarthing, a busy state school in Wandsworth; founding head, Maple Walk School, London (2005-2012). Married to Christopher; they have two teenage sons.

Bright and bubbly, Mrs Knollys exudes warmth and is highly accessible. She is the kind of person who rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it, whether it be teaching netball, transforming school lunches or wearing her slippersocks round the school on Red Nose day and dressing up in something crazy on Fun Friday. She gets things done – as can be seen from her previous job at Maple Walk, the pioneer New Model school which started ‘out of a trunk’ as she puts it, with two pupils, and had 150 pupils by the time she left.

This is her first experience of a single sex school. ‘I thought I’d miss the boys,’ she remarks, ‘but I don’t miss the scraps in the playground – and our girls are very feisty.’ She loves the girls, she says, because of their enthusiasm for everything, their lack of shame about excelling in science and maths and the more stable class dynamic. She makes herself available to the parents, emails are responded to promptly, and she is there every morning to greet families. She is particularly on top of the 11+ process, which starts with private meetings as early as year 4.

She is a good listener and we were told by one girl that ‘she took on board our suggestions so we have much better lunches now, we no longer have to serve the younger children their lunch, and the loos and sinks are much nicer.’ Her visible presence around the school includes teaching year 6 Latin, supporting maths in year 5 and English comprehension in year 4. That way she can properly understand each child and write detailed reports for the senior schools as well as giving fully informed advice to parents. She has one-to-one meetings with everyone from the kitchen staff through to the teaching staff and the parents. No one gets special treatment but everyone gets proper attention. She throws herself into every aspect of the job and has been seen wiping her tears away during a music assembly. ‘These are my girls,’ she says unapologetically.

Entrance

Thirty-six reception places (though siblings often take several) by informal, small group assessment – essentially to see if the girls interact well and can do the basics competently. Some bursaries available for needy local girls or those already in the school who fall on hard times. Unsuccessful applicants for 4+ entry and later applicants placed on a waiting list for consideration.

Exit

Recently, quite a number to top boarding schools - Cheltenham Ladies, Wycombe Abbey, Benenden, Heathfield, St Mary's Ascot. Otherwise, many to St Paul's, Godolphin & Latymer, Latymer Upper and Francis Holland SW1, though some further afield to eg South Hampstead, North London Collegiate and Putney High. A range of awards - 15 in 2018, mainly academic, but also for art and sport.

Our view

Think purple. Think elegant. Think Glendower. Natty purple berets, charming purple checked and striped uniform, purple website, purple chairs and folders in the classrooms, purple benches and tables in the playground as well as the purple scooters that the girls arrive on. Plush carpets and sweeping staircase in a building that feels much more like a comfortable home than a school. The 1830s white building – Thomas Cundy III? – on Queen's Gate occupies a large corner plot facing Stanhope Gardens. An airy, panelled and white-painted entrance hall, complete with wonderful large Quentin Blake originals, is also used - with the doors opened to the adjacent library - as an assembly space. Library attractive and well-stocked. Excellent displays of work everywhere, lots of up-to-the-minute equipment in all rooms.

From the moment you enter Mrs Knollys’ study with its oak panelled walls, large Victorian partners’ desks and oil portraits, you know this is a school with history. Founded by two spinsters in 1895, one of whose eyes (Edith Lloyd’s) follow you around the room from above the fireplace, Glendower is a charitable trust, and has always been run as a not-for-profit organisation. A nostalgic relief as spanking new profit-making companies pop up throughout the city, establishing expensive schools to meet demand.

Girls get lots of attention here. One teacher/assistant to 11 girls, class sizes of between 16 and 18. Not a school for those with serious SENs but school will pick up and support those with mild difficulties and make individual learning plans for those who need them. Between five and 10 per cent of girls are on the SEN register, more are being monitored. No stigma, just lots of support. There’s a handwriting club during lunch break, some who have been diagnosed dyscalculic get support from outside – Emerson House for example; a learning support assistant gives classroom support with organisational/processing skills etc at no extra charge. EFL is given in small groups or one-to-one to the few who need a little extra help. Parents a real mix, US, Chinese, European - lots of bilingual, trilingual, English as a fourth language - but they are here for the duration, not much to-ing and fro-ing. Specialist teaching right from the start - French, music, drama and PE, and by year 4 almost all teaching is specialist. Science is well-equipped and busy; the girls enthused about identifying cells under a microscope using iodine.

The post 11+ programme is includes touch typing, Latin and lots of public speaking eg school poetry reciting competitions, and balloon debating competitions against other schools. Lots of music – and the twice weekly music assemblies can feature anything from Bollywood dancing to a harp recital. Most girls play at least one instrument and many take musical theatre exams. ‘Music is as natural as breathing here,’ glows Mrs Knollys. ‘No-one is concerned about performing and there are no divas.’ This school is no slouch when it comes to sport either, despite having no grounds to speak of. They are fiendish at netball and compete at national level as well as against other local schools and among themselves in inter-house matches. We saw several girls snatch some precious moments during break to practise their shooting skills. Theatrical productions and swimming take place at Imperial College, athletics in Chiswick. The girls also play tennis and rounders. Food cooked fresh on the premises and they eat in their own dining room – no packed lunches here – hurrah!

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