Skip to main content

What says..

Dr Who springs to mind when describing St Hilda’s buildings. Set at the end of Bushey High Street in an unassuming Victorian house (originally the home of artist Hubert von Herkomer), with a number of more modern add-ons crammed into the site, it has a compact, urban feel, more akin to a London school than a leafy suburban prep. There’s a quiet energy rather than a buzz around the school, generated by a loyal staff, some of whom have taught at St Hilda’s for 15 years or more. Girls seem studious and sensible – not a hint of precociousness – probably because…

Read review »

What the parents say...

No comments received for St Hilda's Preparatory School for Girls

Please login to post a comment.

Thank the school

Parents and pupils often have cause to acknowledge the help and support they have received from their schools, for example in helping in the choice of further education or careers. "Say thank you" allows you to send a quick note of appreciation to the school in general or to an individual teacher.


This is a thank you to your school, teacher or careers adviser who helped you to get where you are now.

Please fill in the fields below, which we will transform into a letter of thanks from you to them.

Leave blank if you want to thank the school as a whole

Years you were there

Can be left blank but, if you can, think of a few words that will bring a smile.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since January 2015, Sarah Jane Styles, previously head of Francis Holland (Sloane Square) Junior School. BA, QTS in theology and MA in philosophy of education. Previously director of studies at Wheathampstead House. Was a member of the royal navy and now a member of the royal naval reserve at weekends and in school holidays. Seen by Francis Holland parents as being ‘approachable’, ‘sweet’ and ‘fair'. Likes cycling, walking and being on the go.

Entrance

About 50 per cent of the potential 18 reception places are filled from the school’s co-ed Bluebird nursery. Not academically selective but all potential newcomers are assessed to ensure good fit with the school and places are not a given. Girls join other year groups from a mix of local state schools and pre-preps, with the occasional joiner from competing preps as parents start to see St Hilda’s as ‘more academic.’

Exit

Despite recent alliance with the Aldenham Foundation, not a feeder to any particular school, with girls leaving at 11 to the enviable range of the top independent and selective maintained schools that populate the area, with the occasional one off to board. In 2016, girls headed off to St Margaret’s, North London Collegiate, Aldenham, Royal Masonic, St Albans, Watford Grammar, City of London, Edgbaston and St Helen’s. Multiple offers and several scholarships the norm most years.

Boys leave the Bluebird at 4 for nearby schools including Northwood Prep and St John’s.

Our view

Dr Who springs to mind when describing St Hilda’s buildings. Set at the end of Bushey High Street in an unassuming Victorian house (originally the home of artist Hubert von Herkomer), with a number of more modern add-ons crammed into the site, it has a compact, urban feel, more akin to a London school than a leafy suburban prep.

In architectural terms it certainly wouldn’t give the glossy Bushey Academy down the road a run for its money, but step inside and the Tardis effect takes over. Classrooms are bright and inspiring, full of examples of the girls’ work. The hard-working hall does an adequate job share as dining room (head chef knows all the girls by name and delivers crowd pleasing lunches every day), rehearsal space and assembly hall. More surprises lie behind the façade of the swimming pool building - recently rebuilt - which somehow hides a good sized, indoor heated pool, and the Whitby Hall, an uninspiring 80s construction which houses a well-equipped gymnasium.

The acres of fields boasted by many preps are sadly lacking, but there are creatively used grounds with hard and grass play areas, a woodland spinney and a spanking new adventure playground recently paid for out of PTA coffers. Sports fixtures requiring more space now take place at Aldenham School, just a 10 minute minibus ride away and well worth the journey. These boast a 400m running track, sports hall and long-jump pit. And they’ve thrown in the use of their minibuses too.

There’s a quiet energy rather than a buzz around the school, generated by a loyal staff, some of whom have taught at St Hilda’s for 15 years or more. The more senior teachers we observed had a spark many young guns would envy and a range of creative approaches up their sleeves to cater for their pupils’ individual foibles – a tangible benefit of tiny class sizes. The exuberant deputy head, well into her 50s and sleeves firmly rolled up in the classroom, is a passionate advocate of ensuring girls are literate across the full range of media and has recently completed a PhD in developing an online learning community with 10 year olds.

Girls seem studious and sensible – not a hint of precociousness – probably because most parents are from the hard-working middle class, many stretching themselves for their daughters’ education. Lots of first time buyers and a variety of ethnicities, reflecting the local area. Religious affiliation – or lack thereof – means school also has to be sensitive to this mix, although grace is said at lunch and there are prayers in assembly.

St Hilda’s punches well above its tiny weight when it comes to academics, ably competing with its neighbouring hothouses. Girls are encouraged to be all-rounders, ‘to give something back to their school'. Ferocious London parents be warned – 11+ tutoring outside school is not encouraged. After-school homework club, supervised by teaching staff, means that girls and parents can indulge in family time – great when everyone’s working hard. Recent scholarships (from all-rounder and academic to sport and music) are the proof in the pudding that good things can come in small packages.

It’s not all work and no play, though. Parents found it refreshing that the school encouraged ‘children to be children’ on snow days and allowed them to play outside rather than kowtowing to health and safety, and felt this to be an accurate reflection of the school’s home-like culture.

Specialist teaching in all subjects in years 4-6 is a unique feature amongst local schools, as is a recent focus on languages, which has seen the school forge links with others in five European countries.

Light homework is set from nursery; 10-15 minutes a night from year 3, rising to 40 minutes in year 5. School doesn’t believe in setting pupils, believing it’s important to allow for a child’s different capabilities within a subject – average class sizes of 16-20 allow this utopian ideal to be a reality. A strong belief in accountability saw school registered for key stage 2 Sats for first time in 2013. In 2015, nearly everyone got level 5 in English (plus a few level 6s), and 30 per cent got level 6 for maths (plus another 30 per cent at level 5).

The school’s size also means that SEN can generally be mainstreamed into the classroom, but a range of friendly-sounding ‘clubs’ for areas such as spelling and language enrichment allow pupils who need it to receive extra help without feeling marginalised.

Flashy facilities for art and music are less in evidence than at many other girls’ preps but provision is fair for the size of the school, with peripatetic lessons on offer in violin from year 1, and 60 per cent of upper school learning an individual instrument across the range of strings, wind and piano. An annual production – usually musical – is a focus for girls in years 5 and 6, with many girls citing drama as their favourite extracurricular activity, inspired (again) by their deputy head who runs the show.

The Aldenham Alliance means that sport is ‘really getting there’ now, according to both staff and parents. Netball and athletics, with girls representing the borough in the latter, are flagship sports, with supporting roles from rounders, gymnastics and dance, and year-round weekly swimming for all from nursery up. More competitive fixtures than previously and the provision of Aldenham’s minibuses has made this previously prohibitively expensive exercise feasible, resulting in a more sporty outlook.

Parents can sleep easy knowing what’s coming on the bill as extracurricular activities are listed on two separate menus – one for free activities and the other for paid-fors. Freebies range from art, Spanish and ICT to football and the more quirky Orff Ensemble – an opportunity for lower school girls (read non-musicians) to play percussion and recorder pieces in a variety of musical styles, with others such as ballet and short tennis on offer at the going rate.

Busy families also benefit from the new Bluebird nursery which offers wrap-around care 50 weeks a year. Parents of nursery age children can select term-time, state school or St Hilda’s school terms to fit in with their situations and deliver flexible childcare. This ethos also spreads up the school with reasonably priced breakfast club (from 7.30am), free early drop off (from 8am) and late pick-up, including tea (up to 6.30pm), available for ‘a few pounds’.

  Zoopla sale properties   Zoopla rent properties   Hide Zoopla markers

Powered by Zoopla

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 

GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Stand by for some myth-busting from our SEN consultants

 


Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now