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Inspirational speakers have included the local mayor, plus others who have climbed Mount Everest, explored the North Pole and rowed the Atlantic: great role models preparing them for a changing world. We witnessed a whole school initiative to ensure girls understood the importance of recycling. The science department arranged to borrow moon rock samples to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first landings on the moon...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since 2012, Sarah Knollys BA PGCE (50s), educated at Exeter (French and Italian) and Roehampton Universities. She came to Glendower following her previous success as founding head at Maple Walk, the pioneer New Model school which started ‘out of a trunk’ as she puts it, with two pupils, and had 150 by the time she left. Married to Christopher; they have two grown-up sons.

Her natural enthusiasm and warmth are engaging and, in a charming fashion, she quickly puts visitors to her elegant, oak-panelled study at ease, whether adult or child. Parents like the fact she is accessible and approachable. This is a head who knows her school, spends time shadowing all 14 classes and is prepared to spend time with every prospective parent. She teaches Latin to year 6 after their entrance examinations and helps out where she can, listening to readers in reception, or sharing squash and biscuits with year 6s to support them prior to their 11+ examinations. Monday breakfasts to celebrate up to six girls’ achievements are, she tells us, ‘one of the highlights of my week’ and when we joined her, the girls were sparky, delightfully polite and self-assured. She writes in the weekly newsletter, responds promptly to parental emails and is there every morning to greet families.

Passionate about Glendower and especially the girls, she is proud of their enthusiasm for learning and ability to laugh at themselves, so refreshing. When we told her that the girls had wholeheartedly praised their teachers to us and loved the emphasis on learning and all the opportunities on offer, she was unashamedly touched. Her aim is to bring out the best in each and every girl and that is shared by her staff. She is justifiably proud of the school’s pastoral care. Long-serving parents have liked her attention to the girls’ well-being and welcome the introduction of small tutorial groups. Caring for others and kindness are key here and she has involved girls in the local community and in charity work both nearby and abroad.

Moving on in July 2019 to head Notting Hill Prep, but she has a strong leadership team in place who share her vision and parents we spoke to are confident that her legacy will continue. Her successor will be Nina Kingsmill Moore, currently deputy head of Lambrook School. UK born, she was educated in South Africa, reading education at Edgewood College (University of Natal). She also has a masters in educational leadership from Buckingham. Started her teaching career at the Unicorn School in Kew, moving on to teach at Upton House and then Wetherby pre-prep, where she was deputy head. At Lambrook she has also headed the pre-prep, and teaches maths and geography. She is married to Hugh, who works in finance, and they have three children.

Entrance

Thirty-six places at reception with girls coming from more than 20 different nurseries. No sibling priority. Informal, small group assessments – essentially to see if the girls interact well and can do the basics competently. English fluency matters. As one parent summed up overall, ‘girls are expected to be engaged and interested in their learning’. 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. Occasional places do occur with longer assessments to see how they cope and interact with their peers. Unlikely to offer after year 5.

Exit

Very impressive results reflect the school’s established excellent academic profile with girls consistently moving on both to top boarding schools and, mostly, to prestigious day schools. Boarding includes Wycombe Abbey, St Mary’s Ascot, Benenden, Heathfield. Day includes St Paul’s Girls’, Godolphin & Latymer, Latymer Upper, Francis Holland SW1, South Hampstead, Putney High. Catering for individual personalities and talents, Mrs Knollys and her team 'really know the children' and, taking account of individual personalities, have widened the range of schools in recent years, which makes excellent sense.

Our view

Founded by two intrepid spinsters, Miss Edith Lloyd and Miss Maud Cornwell, in 1895, 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. The school colour purple is all-pervasive; from the helpful website, to the girls in their uniform, sporting natty purple berets, smart winter dresses with purple and white striped blouses, or summer purple and white checked dresses, to their purple bags, folders and playground benches. The year 3s we accompanied to a Shakespeare workshop at nearby Beit Hall looked smart in tailored, velvet -trimmed grey coats with matching tights and neat hairstyles sporting purple clips and ribbons. The school feels like a welcoming grand house with its well-stocked library and airy, panelled entrance hall, carpeted throughout with excellent displays on every staircase. Every classroom is light and well-equipped, sets of iPads regularly employed, with only the science laboratory below ground level. School will shortly gain additional space without increasing the pupil roll. This will provide a smarter entrance, make moving between the two buildings seamless, no longer involving considerable stair climbing, and more rooms will allow staff flexibility for teaching in more groups.

Class sizes of between 16 and 18 with one teacher/assistant to nine girls mean that they receive considerable attention and their strengths and weaknesses are known and acted upon. One parent commented, ‘Teachers are engaged on an individual level. We can email them all if we have any worries and they will provide support and are prepared to put themselves out.’ The parental portal is well–used and informative. ‘They are constantly improving the IT interface with parents to support them.’ 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 without any stigma, just plenty of support including handwriting club during lunch break and touch-typing practice. Speech therapists and occupational therapists come into school for a few. Some, who have been diagnosed dyscalculaic, receive external support, at Emerson House for example. EFL is given in small groups or one-to-one to the few who need a little extra help.

Well-qualified teaching assistants, all with degrees in upper school, are given opportunities for professional development. We heard excellent French accents during our visit with specialist native speaker from reception upwards. Mandarin is on the curriculum for years 4 and 5 with girls often obtaining full marks in the ISEB tests. Parents are a real international mix, US, Chinese, European, so many girls are bilingual or trilingual, but mostly long-stayers with very little movement. Parents of occasional place pupils praise how well the girls treat newcomers and how welcoming other parents are, arranging coffee mornings and play dates. ‘If parents want to be involved they can be but if not, this is accepted, not questioned’.

Specialist teaching in music, drama and PE from reception with most subjects specialist taught from year 4. Girls seem happy, love their school and all it has to offer. They commented, 'everyone is busy here, there’s no lounging about'. They are responsive in lessons and we witnessed their enthusiasm for acting, playing a trumpet, carrying out experiments using microscopes and devising a board game employing algebraic substitutions. The Glendower ‘6 rs’, (learning habits), including resilience and reflection, underpin everything. The broad curriculum is, parents agree, ‘varied and fun’ with a wide range of clubs, including football, spy, coding, Spanish, bridge, chess and magazine writing, along with music, art and, extremely popular, drama.

Inspirational speakers have included the local mayor, plus others who have climbed Mount Everest, explored the North Pole and rowed the Atlantic: great role models preparing them for a changing world. We witnessed a whole school initiative to ensure girls understood the importance of recycling and their responsibilities. Much care is taken to provide a post 11+ programme which includes Thames conservation and young enterprise projects, Latin, poetry reciting competitions and balloon debating competitions against other schools. Full advantage is taken of the school’s location with trips to museums, galleries and theatres. The science department arranged to borrow moon rock samples to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first landings on the moon, and one team recently came third in a national science championship. Girls' work has been exhibited at the National Gallery as part of its Take One Picture initiative.

Despite the lack of a sports field on site, Glendower has a reputation for sports with proud reports in the school magazine. It is a serious business; just take a look at the sport selection policy on the website. There are weekend netball workshops involving famous players, year 6s take part in local football tournaments
and girls have won IAPS fencing, sailing and triathalon events. Mrs Knollys remarked, 'they enjoy sharing and celebrating one another’s achievements'.

Music thrives. Around 90 per cent take music lessons, which can include singing (several choirs) and musical theatre. We attended orchestra practice with good trumpet, violin, flute and clarinet players, and there are brass, string and woodwind ensembles. Some are members of the National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choir. Girls chatted to us about termly productions including year 3's silent movies and parents looked forward to the autumn harvest concert in the local church.

Plenty of leadership roles, from librarians to sports captains.

'They leave with a "can do" approach to life and are well balanced as the staff really care about their mental health just as much as their academic progress,' we were told. This is a happy school, keen not to be seen as a hothouse. 'It achieves a perfect balance between encouraging girls to do their best and reaching high academic standards whilst ensuring they feel supported and have opportunities so they grow up with good values,' said a parent Others agree: 'As parents we worry about the daunting examination system: Glendower makes it as soft and gentle as it can possibly be. It’s all about the child, not what exit results look like on paper.'

Special Education Needs

The school has a learning co-ordinator who supervises any girls who need special arrangements for full access to learning. 09-09

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