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The site has been transformed in recent years – a dazzling reworking of the central core of the school retained the school’s period façade and a sleek glass extension has been added at the rear, with a spacious library, ultra-modern assembly hall, music recital hall, recording studio and sports hall. The extension looks out over a tree-lined courtyard with lots of benches to sit on during the summer months. Parents like the school’s size. ‘It’s like Goldilocks,’ said one. ‘Neither too hot nor too cold. Neither too big nor too small...’

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What the school says...

Entrance criteria as follows: 11+ - English, Maths. Then interview for all candidates. 12+ English, Maths and modern language. 16+: As in A level subjects and Bs in all. Short interviews and aptitude test.

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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 January 2017, Matthew Shoults MA (40s). Educated at King’s College School, Wimbledon, then read classics at Worcester College, Oxford. Spent two years on the civil service’s graduate fast track scheme before deciding he wanted to be a teacher. After doing a PGCE at Cambridge he taught classics at King’s, his old school, for four years. Moved to North London Collegiate School as head of classics, becoming deputy head and then senior deputy. After 12 years there he was appointed to the top job at Notting Hill and Ealing High School.

The first male head in the school’s 145-year history, he was struck from the start by its warmth and friendliness. During his first visit one girl told him: ‘It’s a school of conversations,’ while another said: ‘The teachers trust and believe in us.’ ‘Yes, it’s academic,’ he says, ‘but it’s a happy place to be. It’s our job to nurture the girls – and nurture their ambitions. It’s incredibly easy to progress here.’ Parents are impressed by his energy and dynamism and like the fact that he’s very visible around the school. ‘He’s bringing in new ideas and is really good for the school,’ one told us. Another said that the girls respected him and found him ‘down-to-earth and easy to talk to’. Head has launched a drive to get as many pupils as possible involved in public speaking. We attended morning assembly during our visit and after notices about the forthcoming inter-house maths challenge and an appeal for clothes and toiletries for refugees, a group of engaging sixth form girls led a presentation about how languages affect the way we think. The head encourages pupils to come up with new ideas – girls often put their heads round his door and say ‘I’ve had an idea’. Recent suggestions, both implemented, saw the launch of a dissection society and an origami club.

Head sees all year 11s as they decide their A level choices and all year 13s before they leave. He teaches public speaking and debating to all year 7 pupils so he can get to know them, will teach Greek to sixth formers next year and already spends time helping girls with their university applications. He often describes people as ‘a good egg’ and was amused when sixth formers presented him with an egg box labelled ‘a pack of good eggs’. Inside were six decorated eggs, one depicting the head. In his spare time he plays the violin, sings, does cryptic crosswords and ‘spoils’ his three godchildren. He’s also part of the way through climbing Scotland’s 282 Munros.

Academic matters

Results are impressive – 89 per cent 9-7 at GCSE in 2019 and 55 per cent A*/A, 83 per cent A*-B at A level. Most popular A level subjects tend to be maths, biology and chemistry but arts and sciences are equally represented. Girls can take virtually any combination of subjects (luckily the assistant timetabler used to be a railway timetabler) and even if only one or two girls want to do an A level subject the school will run it. Most take three or four subjects at A level (25 subjects to choose from, including history of art, economics, psychology and politics) and 10 or 11 at GCSE. EPQ is growing in popularity for sixth formers and year 12 students take a variety of enrichment courses, choosing from an eclectic list of topics, from medieval art to the psychology of happiness.

Languages are strong here. All study Mandarin in years 7, plus a carousel system of French, German or Spanish; from year 8, girls choose two from these four languages and continue with them in year 9. Most take two languages at GCSE. Excellent take-up of Mandarin at GCSE and a high proportion of top grades. There’s also a biennial trip to China. Latin is taught from year 8, with classical Greek offered from year 10. Class sizes of around 24, with maths the only subject set (from year 8). ‘We want to create a sense that they aren’t competing against each other,’ says the head. ‘It’s how they are doing themselves that’s important.’

Two dedicated learning support staff offer extra help where needed. Parents say the academic side of the school is ‘very solid’ and praise the way it helps new year 7s transition to senior school life. ‘They want to them to settle in their friendship groups and develop their confidence before the work ramps up,’ said one mother.

Games, options, the arts

Sport is important (at the time of our visit the new director of sport had been shortlisted for the London’s sports teacher of the year award). The site is compact but clever architects have managed to fit a lot into the space. New four-court sports hall is impressive, as are the Astroturfs and 25-metre indoor pool. Sixth formers can train as lifeguards. The new extension to the school has added a stunning rooftop dance studio and fitness gym, with views across the school. All pupils take part in sport, from mainstream sports like netball, hockey, tennis and athletics to activities like cross-country, trampolining, running, badminton, cricket, football, Zumba, yoga and kickboxing. Many notable local and national successes, including winning the year 7 Middlesex cricket tournament and reaching the national finals in U14 netball.

Music is a real strength of the school. A multitude of individual music lessons and plenty of opportunities to play in orchestras and ensembles and sing in choirs. Recent choral tours to Barcelona, Florence and Croatia. Less experienced musicians get the chance to build their confidence by performing in atrium concerts. Parents say drama is ‘fantastic’ (there’s a studio space as well as the main hall). School play every year, with girls designing the sets, lighting and costumes as well as performing and directing. Art department is vibrant and exciting, boasting three purpose-built studios kitted out with everything from digital scanners to a printing press. Several girls a year head to do art foundation and architecture courses.

Vast range of extracurricular clubs, many of them student led. Work experience is compulsory in year 11 and most girls find their own placements. On the day of our visit an enterprising sixth former was busy organising a fashion show at the school and had fixed for a national newspaper fashion editor and a representative from a well-known sports brand to attend.

Background and atmosphere

The oldest school in the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) portfolio, Notting Hill and Ealing High School was founded in Notting Hill in 1873 and moved to leafy Ealing in 1930. The site has been transformed in recent years – a dazzling reworking of the central core of the school retained the school’s period façade and a sleek glass extension has been added at the rear, with a spacious library, ultra-modern assembly hall, music recital hall, recording studio and sports hall. The extension looks out over a tree-lined courtyard with lots of benches to sit on during the summer months. Parents like the school’s size. ‘It’s like Goldilocks,’ said one. ‘Neither too hot nor too cold. Neither too big nor too small.’

Sixth formers enthuse about their sixth form centre, a former children’s home a five-minute walk away from the main site and equipped with six classrooms, common room, gym and café serving sandwiches, jacket potatoes, pasta, tea and coffee. Sixth form classes are small, girls don’t have to wear uniform (no midriffs and no strappy tops) and they can go home in the afternoon if they don’t have lessons. ‘The sixth form girls like the fact that they get the support and outward-facing perspective but we aren’t cocooning them,’ says the head. Parents agree. One told us that her daughter had thrived in the sixth form. ‘The environment is very nurturing but they are treated as adults too,’ she said. Head of the sixth form reminds the girls of the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance – ‘the vast majority are very sensible,’ she says. Plenty of opportunities for leadership roles. Contenders for the role of head girl have to write a letter of application, make a speech and have an interview. All sixth formers are school reps and there’s also a six-strong head girl team (including a sports captain).

Strong emphasis on helping others – girls of all ages raise money for chosen charities by running cake sales, nearly new sales, games and raffles. Strong links with the local community, including a Saturday morning Mandarin club for primary school children and a netball tournament for nearby primary schools run by year 10 girls.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

This is a school where pastoral care is prioritised as much as academic drive. When the head arrived he was struck by how ‘joined-up’ the pastoral care is. It’s overseen by senior deputy head (pastoral) and staff work closely with parents. Heads of year meet form tutors every week to problem-solve and discuss any concerns. Girls can also talk to the school nurse and counsellor.

New year 7s are well supported via the big sister scheme (year 12s act as big sisters to them, offering help when they need it). Other activities include a picnic with year 8s and the chance to write a letter to their future selves, expressing their hopes and ambitions. Much to their delight, they receive it back in year 11.

All the girls we met were enthusiastic about being in an all-girls’ school. ‘It’s far more relaxed without boys,’ one told us. Parents say that issues and concerns are handled well – ‘in a very thoughtful and individualised way’. In years 7 to 11 girls have to put their mobile phones in lockers when they arrive at school – ‘if they are spotted with their phone we have a word with them,’ says the head.

Pupils and parents

The pupils we met were enthusiastic, outgoing and full of charm. One parent told us that the girls were six months behind their central London counterparts when it came to social life and teenage parties – ‘and we are very grateful for that,’ she added. Girls predominantly come from Ealing, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Harrow, Notting Hill, Richmond and Kew. Travel links are good and 70 per cent travel in by public transport – tube, train and bus (the bus from Ealing Broadway stops right outside the school). They are a very grounded group of girls – ‘in touch with reality,’ says the head. Most parents work (lots of doctors, lawyers and media types).

Distinguished alumnae include historian Bettany Hughes, Labour MP Rupa Huq, stand-up comic Pippa Evans, London Grammar singer Hannah Reid and 2018 GDST alumna of the year Nirupa Murugaesu, the clinical lead for molecular oncology at Genomics England.

Entrance

Very oversubscribed but doesn’t give out application numbers – ‘because we don’t want to put parents off’. Around 45 girls move up from the junior school each year, with another 50 coming from local primaries and preps. The school is a member of the London 11+ Consortium and entry now consists of a 75-minute cognitive ability test incorporating verbal, non-verbal and maths questions. AT 12+/13+, maths, English and MFL exams. All applicants to the senior school have a one-to-one interview. ‘We are looking for girls with an inquiring nature,’ says the head. ‘We don’t have a type. One of the fundamental aims of the school is for them to be themselves.’

Six or seven girls join the sixth form from other schools. They must have at least eight 9-7s at GCSE, including in all their proposed A level subjects, plus a short interview and aptitude test.

Exit

A handful leave after GCSEs, usually for co-ed independents and state schools. Some decide to head back within a few weeks and the school accommodates them if it can. Virtually all go straight to university (very few gap years), majority to Russell Group with seven to Oxbridge and eight medics in 2019. Several a year to art foundations. STEM related degrees on the up, including mechanical engineering, architecture and cyber security and computer forensics.

Money matters

The GDST has been providing high-quality academic education at a reasonable cost for nearly 150 years and Notting Hill and Ealing High does exactly that. Academic scholarships worth up to 50 per cent of the fees and music scholarships worth 10 per cent of the fees are available for year 7s. For those entering the sixth form there are academic, art music, sport and drama scholarships worth five to 10 per cent of the fees. Means-tested bursaries available too (scholarships can be supplemented by these).

Our view

A forward-looking school that provides a stimulating education in a friendly and nurturing environment. Academic achievements are excellent and these energetic, exuberant girls are definitely a force to be reckoned with.

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.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

We do not cater for specific special needs, nor do we promote the school as being suited to children with special needs. All that is written below should be seen in that light. Some girls are found to be affected by mild dyslexia or dyspraxia, and one or two have physical difficulties eg some sensory impairment, or another specific difference which may affect their learning or ability to cope in school. This is a selective school, and all successful candidates are selected primarily on academic grounds with any SEN being taken into account, but not to the extent of ignoring the nature of our competitive entry procedure and provision. No girl is admitted, whatever her situation, if we do not consider she is likely to thrive here. We work with other agencies as necessary where relevant as best we can. In the junior school there is additional private tuition available on-site where needed for mathematics and English. In the senior school there is a specialist special needs consultant who comes weekly to give one-to-one advice, at the school's expense. Significant support is not available in school, but all staff do what they can to help each girl make confident progress, whatever her situation. Both ends of the school have a special needs co-ordinator, who is interested in gifted and talented needs as well as disabilities. Senior girls are able to take part in the government's Gifted and Talented scheme when they are recommended to do so, based on MIDYIS scores. Several do this. While we do all we can to help all our pupils, whatever their situation, we do not offer the depth of support which parents are presumably looking for when consulting an SEN guide.

Who came from where


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