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Mill Hill has a well-deserved reputation for developing the whole pupil through its outstanding extra-curricular offering, with sport the jewel in the crown. As one Oxford-bound sixth former accurately put it, ‘Sport here is huge’. Teaching overall considered challenging and stimulating, and warm and supportive relationships between staff and pupils encourage the shy or reticent to find their voice.  Mill Hill started life as a boarding school, but as ...

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What the school says...

The Mill Hill School Foundation offers education to boys and girls aged between 3 and 18 in its four Schools. The Schools occupy a magnificent 160 acres of beautiful grounds just 10 miles from Central London with easy access to underground and main line stations.

Mill Hill School is a co-educational school for boys and girls aged 13- 18 in North West London. Offering day, weekly and full boarding. The School adopts a broad education, where academic excellence is complemented by cultural, sporting and social development.

Mill Hill School seeks to equip pupils for life, both now and in the future. Our stimulating academic environment and numerous activities outside the classroom encourage learning and personal growth. We are committed to the development of every pupil and believe that our friendly and supportive community helps this to happen.

The School’s academic curriculum is broad, flexible and forward-looking and is designed to encourage among pupils intellectual curiosity, sound learning and a spirit of enquiry in the pursuit of academic excellence. The Creative Arts have a long and successful tradition at Mill Hill and are a key part of the academic curriculum. The Art Department offers facilities and expertise for pupils to develop their interest and skills in painting and drawing, alternative media, film, illustration, multimedia, photography (including digital photography), printmaking, sculpture, textiles, theatre design and video.

Mill Hill School is renowned for its sporting excellence. Every pupil, regardless of physical ability, is encouraged to participate in both competitive and non-competitive sport. The major sports for the boys are Rugby, Hockey and Cricket and for the girls are Hockey, Netball, Rounders and Tennis. Other opportunities include Athletics, Basketball, Cross Country, Eton Fives, Golf, Horse Riding, Soccer, and Swimming. In recent years Mill Hill’s sportsmen and women have enjoyed great success at National, Regional, County and local level. There are regular sports tours overseas, destinations have included New Zealand, Canada, Barbados, South Africa, Italy and Spain.
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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

Head

Since December 2018, Jane Sanchez BA PGCE. Raised in the Midlands, she studied geography and qualified as a teacher (in geography and PE) at Sheffield University. After a stint at a community college, she taught in Argentina for four years, then, for nearly a decade, headed the PE and careers departments (while teaching geography) at top-flight girls’ grammar school Henrietta Barnett. This was followed by a time as director of sport at specialist sports college Whitefield School, as school facing ‘extra challenging circumstances’. ‘There aren’t many areas I haven’t had to deal with,’ she says, ‘and that helps me understand what’s needed is balance.’

Since her arrival at Mill Hill in 2003 as pastoral deputy head, her experience has been extended in a wide range of roles, but always with a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of pupils. Considered very down-to-earth, visible and approachable, she clearly also has a good sense of fun, starring in an April fool’s prank as a concert pianist. ‘I like her a lot,’ says one parent. ‘She’s very sensible.’ Two adult children, both of whom attended the school.

Entrance

At 13+, 176 enter - including 130 moving up from the prep school, Belmont, 70 of whom join in year 7. Common Entrance no longer required for those transferring, but the 140 or so who apply for 30-40 available year 9 slots are pre-tested in year 6 (by computerised tests and interview). Most stay on for sixth form, when entrance for existing students in line with external candidates, but evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Incomers - after positive feedback from their current school - are invited for interview and expected to achieve at least two grade 7s and three grade 6s with specified grades in their intended A level subjects.

Exit

Nearly 60 per cent to Russell Group in 2019, including five to Oxbridge, plus three medics. Pupils’ favourites include Exeter, Manchester, Nottingham, UCL, Birmingham, Bristol, Queen Mary and Loughborough. Subject choice unusually wide-ranging, from traditional professions like law and journalism to aeronautics and fashion marketing.

Latest results

In 2019, 57 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 35 per cent A*-A at A level.

Teaching and learning

Very solid exam results throughout. No weak spots. Since her appointment, the head has rethought the timetable, reducing lessons from 50 to 40 minutes to aid concentration and allow an extra period in the day. ‘It gives more time for each subject,’ says the head, ‘and has allowed us to make RS, very popular here, a stand-alone subject.’

At GCSE, English (lang and lit), maths and science (just under half take all three) is the compulsory core, with French, German and Spanish the language selection. After that, as well at the regular range of humanities, students can opt for classical civilisaton, computer science, PE, music, DT and ICT. At A Level, popular choices include: business, economics, geography and psychology. The EPQ is available but not widely taken as the most academically able are steered to a subject-specific Oxbridge preparation programme.

Teaching overall considered challenging and stimulating, and warm and supportive relationships between staff and pupils encourage the shy or reticent to find their voice. ‘Extension’ supplied by challenging in-class work, regular lectures, debates, workshops and participation in The Sir James Murray Society (where a recent student-led debate analysed the statement ‘We should not be at the mercy of our emotions’). The particularly able or interested are given mentoring and regular challenges. ‘There are many bright, motivated pupils and I’ve seen that they stretch them in the right way,’ said one mother. Some parents, however, (and the last school inspectors) consider not every lesson is as exciting as it might be and marking could occasionally be more focussed to maximise progress.

Learning support and SEN

SEN is a strength, with a full team including head of learning support, two part-time teachers and four assistants, who occupy four well-resourced rooms and oversee individual and small-group support as well as liaising closely with teachers to ensure they receive appropriate intervention in lessons. English Language instruction for international students is supportive and positive, and those we spoke to, who’d often started out with very basic skills, had acquired a strong command of the language.

The arts and extracurricular

Mill Hill has a well-deserved reputation for developing the whole pupil through its outstanding extra-curricular offering, with sport the jewel in the crown. As one Oxford-bound sixth former accurately put it, ‘Sport here is huge’.

Music, art and drama almost equally vibrant. Energetic participation in music at individual and group level. Singing notably strong (‘Mill Hill,’ says a recent magazine entry correctly, ‘is a school that sings,’), and there are a multitude of opportunities to give voice, from the ‘Big Sing’ building community spirit with an inspiring new hymn book, to the Farrow singing competition and the annual school musical. School orchestra performs significant works, such as Vivaldi’s Gloria, and future maestri and maestre encouraged with annual composition prize. Instrumentalists participate in instrumental competitions, chamber groups, masterclasses, jazz soirée and twice weekly informal coffee concerts, while school clubs extend performance opportunities with jazz band, percussion, shout band, music tech, wind band and ukulele. Music scholars – who’ve gone on to glory in the National Youth Orchestra, National Choir and National German Music competition - get specialist attention, with masterclasses taken at the Junior Guildhall. ‘The music department is like an extension of my family,’ said one. ‘They’ve supported and encouraged me in everything I’ve done.’
Drama lively, with a carousel of theatre trips, including to productions featuring Old Millhillians. Art and DT have spacious, well-equipped space, and art extends well beyond the studio with year 9’s self-portrait ceramic heads – à la Antony Gormley – on show in the school chapel to become a focus for services and sixth formers’ work vaunted in dedicated private view.

Creative thinking encouraged for all in the ‘Big Idea’, an inter-house competition to improve school life assessed by Dragon’s Den-type finale. More than 150 clubs and activities cater to virtually every interest, from feminism and Model United Nations to horticulture, Hispanic theatre and touch typing. CCF particularly strong with about 150 smartly clad cadets filling the campus after lessons, and annual general inspection, chapel service, and holiday camps. Endless relay of work-related and pleasure trips - business studies to China, physics to CERN, DT to Jaguar Land Rover, ski trip to USA. Annual summer-term activities week offers a further multitude of adventures to expand the mind. ‘There’s so much to do here, it sometimes feels like it’s hard to fit it all in,’ said one year 10.

Sport

The department has recently been boosted by the catch-your-breath energy of director of sport and the introduction of 11 impressive new coaches (including two professional women rugby players from Saracens Women). National aspirations abound. Until a few years ago, the school had a Saturday timetable combining lessons and sports fixtures, but the academic side is now confined to GCSE and A level workshops and weekends (including Sundays) have been freed for fixtures. Virtually all, participate in competition, with 95 per cent of year 9s involved in a school team. Main boys’ sports are rugby (with national level players), hockey, football and cricket. Girls’ sport as strong as the boys’, and girls play hockey, netball, rounders and cricket (with old girl Sophia Dunkley recently selected for the England squad), but not football. Girls, like the boys, also excel at fives, with under 14 and under 15 players ranking in the top 10 in the country. Girls’ aspirations and achievements recognised in girls’ sports dinner, and (perhaps!) encouraged, by mums’ netball competition.

Talented sportsmen and women - identified through sports scholarships at 13 and 16 - are carefully nurtured (with specialist instruction in nutrition, strength and conditioning, video analysis, golf and tennis academies), and pupils participate at high competitive level in individual sports from riding (at nearby stable), shooting, golf, tennis, bouldering (GB Junior Team member), and sailing. Less common team sports like basketball and volleyball (in which the school recently fielded a team in the England Volleyball U18 National Championships) offer a broad scope for enthusiasm. Excellent facilities for everything with a multitude of pitches (including Astroturf), courts, golf centre and pool, and impressive sports trips (rugby to Japan, for example) provide exceptional opportunities, particularly for what is predominantly a day school.

Boarders

Mill Hill started life as a boarding school, but as local boarding teetered on extinction, a sustained campaign abroad led to a powerful resurgence. Now boarding houses are full again with international as well as weekly boarders. Five boarding houses (girls-only, boys-only, and mixed), a short walk from the main buildings, are comfortable and up to date, furnished with triple, double and single bedrooms (depending on seniority). Meals are taken in the school dining room, but each house has a kitchen for snacks. International boarders appreciate the school’s proximity to central London – ‘We love going shopping on the weekends,’ said one – and its cosmopolitan atmosphere. ‘Before I came here, I went to a boarding school in the country where I was the only non-English pupil; I felt very uncomfortable,’ commented one. ‘I am much happier here.’

Ethos and heritage

Mill Hill started life as a boarding school Founded in 1807 by non-conformist reformers, the Mill Hill School Foundation now encompasses a family of schools - pre-prep (Grimsdell), prep school (Belmont), and international boarding (The Mount, Mill Hill International) - which provide a smooth transition to the Senior School. Together the schools occupy 150 acres of green belt and, though only half an hour from central London, offer a semi-rural refuge of green and pleasant space and fresh country air. Now overseen by a single CEO, the foundation schools share a united mission - to produce ‘a strong sense of community in which the academic and co-curricular provide a challenging and stimulating environment in which to learn the skills which play a key part in future success and happiness’. ‘The modern working world is not just about exams,’ says the head. ‘Employers today are looking for the ability to lead, to tackle challenges, to live with integrity, honesty and fairness.’

If a physical environment can contribute to these objectives, then pupils here are particularly blessed. The original school house of 1825 – by London Royal Exchange architect Sir William Tite – provides an elegant neo-classical centre, where pupils meet for meals in the tall-windowed dining hall. This is complemented by an impressive catalogue of satellite buildings, ranging from the Basil Champneys-designed chapel with its soaring coffered ceiling to the delightful arts and crafts library and thoroughly modernist humanities and modern languages building. The gardens, too, are undoubtedly ‘worth a detour’, containing specimens originally planted by renowned 18th-century botanist Peter Collinson, including Britain’s first hydrangea.

Mill Hill originated as an all-boys’ boarding school, introducing the first girls into the sixth form in the 1970s; today, it’s primarily a co-educational day school (with full and weekly boarding also available), but the girl-boy balance remains weighted two thirds in favour of boys. ‘You notice it, but it’s never an issue,’ says one girl. Some subjects (like science and history) still boy dominated, but languages, maths and English fairly evenly split. ‘It’s realistic, like in the real world,’ said a pupil. Both sexes feel the mix works. ‘There’s a really good relationship between the boys and the girls,’ said one boy. ‘It’s a lot more relaxed, less intense in the classroom,’ said a girl – ‘competitive, but in a healthy way.’
Numbers continue to grow and in 2014, Mill Hill launched The Mount, Mill Hill International, its own self-contained international school, where students from nearly 30 countries (including the UK) come to sit GCSEs (in one year or two) or undertake an intensive English programme, in many instances proceeding to the main school for sixth form. Taught in their own attractive building (a former girls’ school) less than half a mile away, pupils here use many of the main school facilities and boarders share boarding houses.
Still a non-conformist Christian foundation with timetabled weekly chapel, today the school welcomes all faiths and none. ‘Giving back’, however, remains very much part of the ethos and pupils are involved in regular fundraising activities and community action, much of it delivered through the school-wide Charity Committee. Strong links, too, with the London Academy of Excellence, a state sixth-form college in Tottenham, and neighbouring girls’ comprehensive Copthall School, who share joint enrichment activities, and with overseas partnerships schools in Tamil Nadu and Zambia.

Pupils generally happy and upbeat. ‘It’s a very happy place,’ commented more than one parent - and few complaints even on traditional peeves. ‘You’re supposed to hate the food, but the food is really good here,’ said one year 11, after being pressed on any dislikes.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Eighty-five per cent of pupils arrive daily and are looked after through a day-house system, with eight mixed houses of 80-90, each with a games room, quiet study room, lockers and housemaster or mistress’s office. House tutors take responsibility for the pastoral care of about 15 pupils. Wellbeing very high on the agenda, and a recently opened wellbeing wing is now its hub, home to two school counsellors, the director of PSHE, and head of pupil development, as well as the wellbeing room, a comfortably furnished, plant-filled space with soothing views of the rolling hills beyond. ‘Mill Hill Minds’, the student-led society formed to raise awareness of mental health, campaigned for the centre to be moved from a distant outpost. ‘It used to be quite isolated, now there’s a safe space where you can come at lunch, before school and after school.’ Pupils very much involved in its operation, interviewing, for example, the new school counsellor. Mental health also promoted through wellbeing week and cross-school endeavours such as the Mill Hill Minds Mural painted by pupils throughout the school.

Fairly traditional approach in other matters, so head boy and girl, heads of houses, smart uniform (business black for sixth formers, navy blue and tartan for younger years), and formal manners. (‘Sorry sir,’ was immediately forthcoming as we squeezed past a sixth former on a staircase.) Upper sixth given the freedom to leave at 12.30, timetable permitting, and, for those with a licence, parking is permitted.

Pupils and parents

An extensive bus route fetches and carries day pupils from affluent homes in a large swathe of north London. Eighty per cent come from no further than Hampstead, with outliers arriving from St John’s Wood, Potter’s Bar and Northwood. Quite a few have a long-time family link with the school, and quite a few do the full stretch from nursery to 18. Pupils are confident, articulate and poised, very much a credit to the school’s holistic approach.

Money matters

Scholarships and exhibitions (academic, sports, music, drama, art and design technology), available at 13 and 16, currently limited to 10 per cent fee reduction (though this is under review), but bursaries (for new entrants and those experiencing hardship) can make this up to 100 per cent. Some extra funding, too, for non-compulsory trips, courtesy of the generous Old Millhillians Association.

The last word

A vibrant, buzzing school, with a solid academic underpinning and an outstanding extra-curricular programme producing confident, articulate, mature young people, who start adult life solidly grounded, positive and well informed. ‘A very happy place to be,’ is the consensus of parents and pupils.

Please note: 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.

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