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What says..

Parents, who are spoilt for choice for local schools, praise the ‘inclusive atmosphere’ and that ‘it’s really not pushy, yet the girls thrive’. ‘You still get the results, it’s just how you get there,’ said one. Pastoral support isn’t just prioritised – it is thoroughly embedded, insist parents, who talk about the ‘personal level of care they have for each child’ and the ‘culture of kindness that you see in every person in the school’. Parents feel teachers take time to understand who their child is and what makes them tick. Girls too talk about how they feel ‘nurtured rather than pushed’ and, happily, few are denied ...

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What the school says...

Choosing your daughters first school is one of the most important decisions that you, as a parent, will have to make. Acknowledging your daughters growing independence, you will seek the assurance that she will be able to fulfil her academic and social potential, that she will be nurtured and cared for and that she will grow into a well-balanced and caring young lady.Your daughters progress through the Junior School will witness her growing confidence and ability, her academic development and her care and concern both for those around her and for those beyond the school community. Through visiting the Junior School and learning more about us I am sure that you will believe that this is the right environment for your daughter. ...Read more

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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

Acting head

Since September 2020, Zara Hubble (head of senior school).

Entrance

Oversubscribed for entry at 3+ and 4+ with three to four applicants for every place. Gently selective with nursery and reception places offered after observation in play. Head meets all parents: ‘we want to see them in a sociable environment to gauge whether they will thrive in a busy school environment and with a long school day.’ Up to 10 new places at 7+, when applicants are assessed in maths, English and reasoning and by interview.

Exit

Almost all to senior school at 11+ with a small handful taking up state grammar places most years.

Our view

Junior school comprises three purpose built buildings – along with Wray Lodge, which houses the headteacher’s office and admin staff – all on same site and a handy hop, skip and jump from senior school, which makes the already super-smooth transition from year 6 (when a few lessons start to be taken with their soon-to-be secondary teachers) even more efficient.

Delightful Bluebelle House is home to early years girls – designed with a fabulous playground, outdoor explorer area (minibeast heaven), masses of IT and spacious, airy and inspiring classrooms where girls learn Spanish via action songs, yoga and ballet from age 3. Three reception classes of up to 20 girls also enjoy this space with life skills such as resilience already high on the educational agenda. Years 1 and 2 in Vincent House, with junior school housing years 3 to 6 – both immaculate, modern buildings, with every available space proudly adorned with colourful art and meticulous handwritten work. Benefits from sharing facilities including swimming pool, sports hall and science block with senior school – and occasionally they get access to the fabulous Scandi-style library, one of the most welcoming we’ve come across (a good job as one year 4 girl told us, ‘I’ve almost read all the fiction in the junior library – it could definitely be bigger’).

Parents, who are spoilt for choice for local schools, praise the ‘inclusive atmosphere’ and that ‘it’s really not pushy, yet the girls thrive’. ‘You still get the results, it’s just how you get there,’ said one. Pastoral support isn’t just prioritised – it is thoroughly embedded, insist parents, who talk about the ‘personal level of care they have for each child’ and the ‘culture of kindness that you see in every person in the school’. Parents feel teachers take time to understand who their child is and what makes them tick – ‘they capture sparks of interest, grow them and make them shine,’ said one. ‘If you want your child to be in a competitive environment, outwitting each other, with academic wins at every possible opportunity, go for one of the other local schools – this one teaches you that winning comes from within, how to get there without burning yourself out, and that looking after your mental health is key, even at this young age,’ summed up one parent. Girls, too, talk about how they feel ‘nurtured rather than pushed’ and, happily, few are denied the right to move into the senior school. Head told us, ‘The children’s emotional literacy is incredibly powerful here – that really hit me when I arrived. There’s no sense of, “here’s the pastoral care and resilience model – go figure”. There’s a kind of built-in CBT programme, with the school constantly questioning ourselves, “how can we teach you to become emotional strategists and work out what you need and how to access it?”’

Thinking skills – pioneered by the whole school from nursery through to year 13 – taken very seriously by all with pupils able to explain the purpose of De Bono thinking hats with enthusiasm and clarity. Curriculum well-paced and not so overloaded that deep learning is missed. Setting in maths from year 3 and all girls learn Spanish from nursery upwards and Latin from year 5. Teachers are described as ‘professional’, ‘dedicated’ and ‘thoughtful’, with ‘impressive amounts of preparation for each class’. ‘They love the girls – they really look after them.’ Lessons we observed were engaging and interactive – not a yawn in sight. All girls screened for SEN in year 4 and supported in small groups either within or outside the classroom – ‘they’ve been really good with my daughter,’ said one parent. A handful of girls receive EAL help.

Despite academics taking centre stage, school also works hard to ensure balance with a dazzling array of extracurricular clubs which take place either at lunch time or after school. Something for everyone, with all major sports represented, plus a wide range from ballet, martial arts, outdoor explorers and gardening to newspaper club. ‘I started up a cupcake club,’ one year 6 girl told us, while another had set up a movie making club.

PE lessons focus on mobility, flexibility and core strength in years 1 and 2, then there’s specialist teaching from year 3, with sports including netball, rounders, athletics and tennis (other specialist teachers, including in some academic subjects, are introduced from year 3) and weekly swimming for all in the magnificent 25m swimming pool. ‘It’s probably not for the super sporty, but it’s absolutely fine,’ said one parent. Music, for which there’s a dedicated teaching room, ‘is in the DNA of the school’, we were told, with a much-praised junior head of music who teaches the foundations of music ‘almost by osmosis’ and gets the girls involved in ‘joyful but highly accurate performances’. ‘You do get the parents who demand why their kid isn’t picked for the concerts, but the school manages it in a good way,’ one parent told us. Peripatetic teaching also available, and frequently taken up, by year 1 upwards. As with the senior school, communal singing is huge – ‘there’s a real lack of inhibition with it, which makes it very uplifting’. ‘Really extraordinary’ major stage production each year – practising for Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat when we visited – with the whole of year 6 participating and many behind the scenes roles up for grabs for lower year groups. Art is primarily taught by form teachers, who work closely with heads of art in the senior school, often with cross-curricular themes – plenty of evidence of talented work adorns the walls.

Misbehaviour is minimal. ‘Families here take education very seriously and really believe in us and support what we’re doing and they share those values with their daughters, so they come to school ready to learn,’ explains school. Teachers rarely have to get further than a ‘quiet look’. ‘It’s almost as if the girls know what they want from their education and that’s a lot more powerful than sanctions,' says school. You almost wonder if the girls are a bit too compliant, although there is all the usual ‘scratchy sort of stuff’ between the girls, says school. ‘We’re mainly encouraged to sort it out ourselves, which usually works, and if it doesn’t a teacher advises us,’ a pupil told us.

Super catering, with lunches (included in fees) freshly prepared on site. Year 2s upwards eat together in dining room. Wraparound care run by Superclubs from 7.30am (includes breakfast) and after-school care (including supper) up to 6pm – great for working parents, although the new system has had ‘some teething problems’, according to one parent.

Majority from British Asian backgrounds although all cultures and religions represented (there’s a multi-faith prayer room for free use by girls as and when) and there’s a strong parent community, with no cliques – ‘I absolutely love the mums,’ said one, although another told us, ‘It’s not in your face – there’s a massive social life if you want it, but it’s not frowned upon to step away.’ Most come by car – ‘not an easy drop-off,’ admit parents about the residential street where the school is located.

The last word

Gone are the days when this school felt it almost had to apologise for itself. In fact, we spoke to parents whose original plan involved moving their daughters to other secondaries at 11+ and in some cases won places at arguably more high-flying schools. Invariably, none wanted to leave, thanks in no small part to the clever balance of nurture and academic rigour they enjoyed at Northwood. Definitely one for the list if you want an all-through, rounded education – not to mention avoiding the 11+ frenzy.

Special Education Needs

In the Junior school at Northwood College, 2 part time staff are employed to offer support to individual girls and to small groups, notably to girls who may be dyslexic.


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