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‘It is very calm here’, one earnest 8 year old told us, and ‘so we can try risky things whenever we want to.’  There is Firepit Friday when groups of girls spend their lunchtime in the outdoor education area, building a fire, cooking on it and doing camp fire things. Much anticipated by all. There is a feel of adventure about the place – when we arrived, the reception class were in harnesses up and down the climbing wall. Academically, there is…

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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headteacher

Laura Fowler(BA Education) arrived at the school in September 2016 with a wealth of headship experience. She had been acting head at a state primary school in Essex and head of juniors for six years at Leicester High. She is absolutely on board with the aspirational vision of the whole school and has incredibly quickly got to know all the girls. Being new has allowed her to run meet-the-parents sessions where she is sharing her aim of strengthening relationships and wanting parents to fully engage with the school. Laura, who comes across as both wise and approachable, believes in getting in the classroom whenever she can and is doing some teaching in all year groups. Her staff and the girls love her open door policy.

Entrance

Girls spend half a day in the school being informally assessed. ‘We want to see if they are going to be happy here’, the head says. There are half termly sessions for 2/3 year olds - ‘Tots have Fun’ - where the school gets a chance to observe younger girls over time.

Exit

Most to senior school. There is no formal assessment for junior school girls to join the senior school, but if the rigorous internal monitoring and assessment process suggestions someone may struggle with the pace of the senior school, this is discussed with parents in year 5.

Our view

The old and new buildings that make up the junior school sit remarkably well together. One moment you are walking on a stunning Minton floor and then through to the Rainbow Room, a wonderful vibrant space that links two buildings. There is a lovely new library and ICT suite and a good size multipurpose hall.

Academically, there is a buzz about the school. There is much technology in evidence and the girls are confident users. As in the senior school, girls in years 5 and 6 have their own iPads and the girls in years 3 and 4 share class sets. The head and the staff tell us that there is constant reflection on excellent practice and that they are very conscious of modelling the behaviour they want the girls to develop. ‘We show the girls that it is OK to cross things out – work doesn’t have to be beautifully tidy to be exciting and interesting’. What an excellent approach to find in a girls’ school. There is no obsessing about exams and assessments. Year 6 girls go away for a residential trip the week before the Sats. Teaching assistants work with class teachers where intervention is needed to ensure progress. This can take the form of pre-teaching a topic, so girls go into lessons already confident. As in the senior school, staff benefit considerably from the broad GDST links with access to cutting edge teaching and learning research and professional training.

Music in the junior school is massive and virtually every girl plays an instrument. The concerts are wonderful, we were told by staff and parents, and there are lots of them, including tea concerts where every girl who is learning an instrument can play, regardless of level. It is this inclusiveness that parents love about the drama too. ‘It is not all about over- rehearsing the stars,’ one parent told us. ‘There is the energy and naturalness you get when everyone is involved’. Outdoor spaces have been imaginatively used to create areas for each age group and a sense of woodland environs which is quite remarkable. There is an outdoor wooden amphitheatre and an outdoor learning area with low ropes and tyre swings which is regularly shared with local primary schools. As in the senior school, there is Firepit Friday when groups of girls spend their lunchtime in the outdoor education area, building a fire, cooking on it and doing camp fire things. Much anticipated by all. There is a feel of adventure about the place – when we arrived, the reception class were in harnesses up and down the climbing wall.

Both staff and girls believe they belong to something very special. The head wants there to be a strong bond between every single girl, her family and the school. The school is working on lots of ways to show the parents they are part of something great. They are encouraged to come and watch a special lesson, to engage with the school on every level, attend IT seminars on safety and workshops on phonics and modern maths methods. Twitter is used very effectively and much appreciated by busy working parents. When girls are away on trips, staff send twitter photos to give the parents a glimpse into what is going on. New parents are phoned a few days into the start of term to check all is well.

There are lots of transition projects and joint activities with the senior school - for example, a year 6 and 7 hockey tour to Holland. The year 9s help with the junior sports day. A big sister, little sister buddy scheme operates between sixth formers and year 6s.

The head of the senior school, Julie Keller, spent the year before she took over as head running the junior school as well as doing her senior deputy head job. It has meant there is real synergy at every level between the junior and senior school. Julie says, ‘I saw such a lot of excellent practice in the junior school that I have been able to share across the senior school’. Laura Fowler thinks it is wonderful having a senior head who loves the junior school through and through and really knows how it works. The girls value knowing the senior school head who still spends time there every week and the year 7s who got to know Julie so well last year are quite proprietorial about her now they have moved into the seniors.

The girls come across as happy and courteous and very excited by all the school offers. They couldn’t tell us fast enough all the clubs they attended and the residential trips that were coming up during the year. Lessons, they say, are fun, and if they have difficulties teachers are really helpful. They are not nervous about talking to teachers if they are miserable either, although they clearly are also encouraged to believe everyone has a responsibility for everyone else’s happiness. Teachers, we discover, are quite amazing and know that you are unhappy even when you haven’t said so. The girls relish the many leadership opportunities they have as they go through the school and liked having their say at the school council. Best of all – you get to choose your own food at lunchtime.

The girls have picked up that they are in a very special place and relish the girls’ only environment. ‘It is very calm here’, one earnest 8 year old told us, and ‘so we can try risky things whenever we want to.’ The idea that girls can achieve at whatever they want is embedded early. The head says the girls have high expectations of themselves and learn quickly and deeply. ‘It means we can do so much with them, take them out of school lots, go off timetable to explore practical skills and everyone still makes exceptional progress’.

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