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This GDST school plays to its strengths: girls’ education. They know the young female mind inside out and backwards and this is reflected in the way these girls are taught. Pressure is kept to a minimum and perfectionists taught to embrace imperfections. Girls quickly find their voice and excel academically because of it. Female empowerment comes from the top down and….


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Entrance examinations consist of: 7 & 11: Written test (involving numerical skills & reasoning) & interview. 16: 8 GCSEs at an average of grade B (including A/B grades in subjects to be pursued).

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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.

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Julie Keller, who is Nottingham born and bred and very proud of her roots. Read economic and social history at Leicester. Always wanted to teach but with no great ambition to be a head. Taught at tough co-ed comprehensives in the city (she attended one herself) and ‘I was good at what I did.’ Gradually fell out of love with the state sector and saw the role of deputy head advertised for Nottingham Girls’. ‘I had started to see that girls were being neglected in co-ed schools. Not deliberately, granted, but I was starting to worry about the girls’ education. Girls were being used to keep the boys quiet and were mainly compliant, so I saw the job, applied and got it.’ Joined in 2011 and became head in 2016. ‘Girls here are definitely not compliant, and nor should they be. I quite like a bit of rebellion (within reason). It’s cool to be clever in this environment which is exactly what we want. We know girls here and how to handle and read them. If a girl is happy in her friendship group she will be successful.’ Housed in a large office with another large bay window (we’ve seen a few of those recently) and the first of many, many Christmas trees to admire she is full of energy and enthusiasm. Grounded and realistic, she brings a buzz to the school and you can understand parents’ reaction to her.

She’s changed quite a lot academically and pastorally. More flexibility with subject choices in GCSE introduced, particularly removing dogmatic demands of three sciences and compulsory languages. ‘The girls now have a free choice.’ A new young senior leadership team are greatly admired by parents. ‘They are full of energy, following the head’s lead, passionate about the school and the girls.’ ‘They are young dynamic women setting a good example for the girls.’

Parents are incredibly enthusiastic about her. Probably one of the most positive responses we’ve had for a head, and that’s saying something as most heads are well liked. She is loved and admired. ‘She’s an excellent role model for the girls, being a working young mum herself.’ ‘I’m blown away by the head. She has the right level of discipline and all the girls respect and like her.’ This was backed up by comments from the girls themselves. ‘She’s open and warm and the school is really well run,’ said another parent. Good to see that the majority of the senior team are female, rightly so in a girls’ school.

Head of junior school is Laura Fowler who has been head for seven years, arriving from Leicester High School for Girls. Again, well liked by parents, ‘she steered the school in the right direction after a turbulent few years.’ All parents spoke about how the transition from junior to senior school is handled well. ‘She’s lovely, very warm and always there to welcome you.’ ‘The atmosphere changed very much for the better when she started.’


Academically selective with girls being assessed at all points of entry. Junior school candidates spend a day at the school and meet head and deputy. Senior school entrants sit an exam and a reference is taken from their school. Automatic entry from junior to senior school. Sixth form girls need an average grade 6 across eight subjects with at least a 7 in some subjects they wish to take, along with a reference.

Most girls come from the city or surrounding nearby villages up to 45 minutes away. A large cohort come from the state sector into year 7 as well as year 6 when up to 10 a year may arrive from local states.

The nursery opened nearly four years ago with a 90 per cent retention going into the junior school.


One or two a year from the nursery won’t cope so go elsewhere. Unusual for a year 6 girl not to go to the senior school but the odd one gently pointed in another direction with parents well aware of this.

Around a third leave after GCSEs (before this year, it had been less, but has gone up again). Some don’t make the grades and head for vocational courses at local colleges. Others want a change but rare for a girl to join the co-ed independent across the road.

As expected, the vast majority of sixth form leavers head to university, STEM subjects making up 40 per cent of numbers. Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester, London, Warwick and Cardiff all popular. Two to Oxbridge in 2023, and two medics. One overseas in 2023 – to Hong Kong. Apprenticeships not sniffed at and more girls, understandably, are pursuing this route.

Latest results

In 2023, 69 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 50 per cent A*/A at A level (80 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 55 per cent A*/A at A level (80 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

This GDST school plays to its strengths: girls’ education. They know the young female mind inside out and backwards and this is reflected in the way these girls are taught. Pressure is kept to a minimum and perfectionists taught to embrace imperfections. Girls quickly find their voice and excel academically because of it. Female empowerment comes from the top down and is absorbed by every girl. STEM subjects rule but not to the detriment of other subjects. Maths set in year 7, but the only subject that is. Parents talk about teachers ‘building confidence and being easy to talk to’. Problems or slacking picked up quickly and girls treated as individuals. So much so that about 20 a year do not take a language out of a cohort of 93, whilst others can opt out of three sciences to concentrate on other subjects. It used to be that 100 per cent did three sciences but head has changed that so now it’s only about 70 per cent. An open-door policy for girls and parents seems to work for both.

Extra work set for those struggling but done kindly and particularly apparent in the junior school. Older girls mentor younger ones in some subjects. MFL taken in two subjects by 15 out of 93 girls currently doing the first year of their GCSEs. French, German and Spanish on offer as well as Latin, Greek and classics.

We enjoyed a tour of both schools from articulate, friendly guides who took great pride in showing us around. It was Christmas so trees were everywhere including a very impressive one made from library books; it must have taken hours. Lessons showed girls joining in with a relaxed atmosphere; mutual respect between staff and girls was noted. ‘It’s not a hothouse,’ said one mother, ‘but they get the results without seeming to apply any pressure.’ Parents talked about girls being very motivated and driven, which has obviously come from the school and its ethos. We enjoyed admiring artwork on display and a very high tech DT area with budding engineers creating impressive work.

Good use is made of the GDST family, particularly higher up the school. Zoom lessons mean less popular subjects such as Latin and German can be taught at A level alongside girls from other schools within the trust. This works well.

Sixth form centre with plenty of space for quiet study and teachers nearby to make sure it is quiet. Obviously lots of UCAS and personal statement help and advice, with girls and parents talking about this. It was apparent our guides knew staff well.

Junior school is situated across the road. We had a chat with year 6 about A Christmas Carol, heard some phonics from year 1 and enjoyed seeing the outdoor learning area and smelling the remains of a bonfire. Year 6 are slightly separate from the other years, being prepared for heading ‘across the road’. Many lessons, including sciences and art, are held there, so girls familiar with it when it comes to making the move.

Learning support and SEN

SENCo and the department spoken highly of by parents. They look after 74 girls with SEN requirements – mainly dyslexia, autism traits and ADHD. Figure is quite high but school quick to spot problems, as are parents. Lots of dyslexia-friendly lessons. Two girls have ECHP with council-funded teaching assistants. All girls taught within class and seem to keep up well.

Just under 100 do not have English as a first language but most are proficient without the need for extra support. Only eight need extra support and mentoring and quickly outgrow this need.

The arts and extracurricular

Very popular here with a fairly recently constructed (2016), impressive performing arts centre, complete with bar; we were assured this was for parents only. This large, airy space is well utilised by both schools. The theatre seats 250 and is also rented out. The school is renowned for its music and drama, with parents very impressed by the amount and standard of performances. Girls are encouraged to perform and get on the stage to build confidence, which seems the norm here. Lots and lots of drama clubs across both schools. We enjoyed listening to music lessons and rehearsals and mention must go to the nativity practice from nursery and reception: Well done, girls, we would have liked to stay longer! Talk was of Christmas concert rehearsals. Pride and Prejudice, High School Musical and The Lion King are all productions for this year. Dance studios, with dressing rooms including impressively lit mirrors, all well used. But you will need warm clothes as it was quite chilly. Good to see sustainability being applied, as well as economic factors.

Music very important, with orchestras and bands ranging from classical to rock with the girls going to watch off site. And they even busk in the city centre. As you would expect, lots and lots of extracurricular opportunities – clubs galore. ‘They seem to find something for everyone,’ said one parent, while another added, ‘There are so many opportunities for the girls to join in.’

Lots of school trips, including year 5 heading to Whitby for a residential stay. So nice to see trips back up and running and being enthusiastically embraced.


We get the impression that competitive sport has not played a huge part in the school, but it is very inclusive with all girls encouraged to join in. It’s gaining momentum – a new sports facility is being built, meaning more pitches on site. ‘We encourage the girls to embrace fitness for life.’ Football and cricket both very popular, along with hockey. Team games do not dominate, though. Individual sports also popular: rowing on Holme Pierrepont lake, lots of yoga, fitness and aerobics. And do notice the climbing wall, where we saw one girl reach the top. We were impressed.

Parents spoke of lots of matches, always attended by the heads. Other parents said, ‘The girls are never pushed but there are lots of opportunities for all types of sport. They all seem to find something they enjoy.’ One wise mother said, ‘It’s not an overly competitive school for sport so it means all the girls can have a go. There don’t seem to be ‘stars’ and there appears to be no shame felt in taking part even if you don’t excel. Exactly what you want.’

Ethos and heritage

Nottingham Girls’ is one of 25 schools of the Girls’ Day School Trust spread across the country. This is unashamedly an inner-city school, not situated – we have to be honest – in Nottingham’s most salubrious district. First impressions if you come from the wrong side of town – we did – can be slightly alarming, but you turn the corner and are suddenly in another world: Georgian and Victorian architecture at its best surrounded by green spaces. As the head says, ‘The girls quickly become streetwise.’ Trams and buses stop on the main road so girls quickly learn to traverse this. The school is very much part of the community and the surroundings produce grounded, on-the-ball girls, who also know how to cross the road safely.

A girls’ school throughout its history, there are no gender stereotypes or glass ceilings here. Renowned for teaching the daughters of the professional classes of Nottingham, it has evolved over the years to what it is today. It is proud of its heritage and equally proud to have moved with the times, so that it now offers a first-class, empowering education to some of Nottingham’s very lucky young women from all walks of life. We like that that there are girls from all backgrounds and races and religions benefitting from this. Historically the girls’ school was located next to the boys’, which became co-ed in 2016 and could have posed a big threat. This helped concentrate the mind and, as the head says, ‘We focused on ourselves and our message. By defining ourselves we became a stronger and happier, more successful school.’ ‘A single-sex education does not mean a single-sex life.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

They pride themselves on this and it was one of the first things all parents spoke to us about. ‘They know girls and know how to handle them and get the best out of them.’ Every parent said how kind the school was, and you do pick this up when you visit. Head acknowledges that girls in particular suffered during the pandemic and a certain age group more than most. This awareness is apparent throughout the school. A counsellor, a very popular nurse and aware teachers help girls that need it and the girls know exactly who to turn to. ‘They absolutely get girls.’ Parents said the school had been talking about girls’ mental health for years, long before it became mainstream. They also said there was lots of support and advice for parents as well as pupils, which is much appreciated. It is obvious that more funds are being channelled towards pastoral care than before. Social media and phone advice offered from external sources, including the police.

Discipline not really mentioned by parents, but those that talked about ‘fall outs’ were happy with the outcome. School is robust and openly talked about unpleasant behaviour including lying and bullying. ‘But we all make mistakes.’ Strong PSHE lessons with openness and honesty seem to work well at quelling any problems.

Something we noted and thought was an excellent idea is that girls starting in year 7 are often put in the same tutor groups as other girls from a similar postcode. This means that they will travel to school together on the bus so they can support each other and friendships can develop. Such a simple idea and so obvious: why don’t more schools do this?

‘The girls have a voice here and are listened to,’ was alluded to or openly said by every parent. The girls are from a diverse background and school is very inclusive and proud of this. The girls are demanding change themselves and are getting it. There’s a new school council which is effective; the head openly says that she ‘sometimes gets annoyed girls coming to see me demanding change’. Lots of girls wear trousers and the school is signed up to the Halo Code. We enjoyed meeting Saffy the school dog.

Pupils and parents

Many parents are first-time buyers of private education whilst others, who are old girls or brought up in Nottingham, have always been aware of the school and had aspirations for their daughters. Academics, medics and professionals make up a diverse group of parents, reflected in their daughters. Some parents were adamant they wanted girls-only education from day one whilst others were more ambivalent, initially choosing the school on merit rather than because it was a girls’ school. Interestingly , these parents quickly bought into the single-sex ethos.

We liked the girls – a varied bunch but all with their feet very firmly on the ground. You could feel the strong cohesion between the girls and we would agree it is ‘a kind school’ with everyone being made welcome, something which parents and girls appreciate.

Money matters

Bursary numbers are high with up to 10 students a year benefiting from a full-fee bursary out of a cohort of up to 80 students. All bursaries means tested. Bursary girls fit in well: ‘They are bright girls with a bright future,’ says the head, and no one necessarily knows who they are.

The last word

This inner city school is educating Nottingham’s bright girls and turning out confident, eloquent young women who are grounded and streetwise at the same time. With their eyes open to all opportunities, they have been able to benefit from a single-sex education and all the advantages it can offer. By following the excellent example set by their impressive head and senior leadership team, a glass ceiling won’t worry this lot – and nor should it.

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

The school is committed to being as inclusive as possible of girls with SEN, within a framework of high academic expectations. There are currently 35 names on the learning support register. The majority have a mild to moderate specific learning difficulty. There are also a small number of students with hearing and visual impairments and with dyspraxic and dyscalculic tendencies. In the junior department a small number of girls receive extra tuition from a specialist teacher, but in the senior school the girls' needs are provided for within mainstream classes. Learning support co-ordinators in both departments assess, advise and monitor the progress of girls with identified needs and inform and support teachers in meeting them. Teachers in junior and senior departments have specialist teacher status for assessment of specific learning difficulties. The recent inspection report describes the SEN provision as "effective" and "sensitive". The school would happily discuss applications from girls with any kind of SEN. We believe that a happy girl is a successful girl and that all girls, regardless of their different learning capabilities and needs, should have the same opportunities to succeed. Our Head of Learning Support, Cate Harvey, specialises in dyslexia and autism and has many years’ experience working with pupils with special educational needs. In addition to this, our School Nurse, Brenda Williams, is vastly experienced and works closely with Cate to ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing of each and every girl. Our approach is to identify any issues as early as possible and make sure that girls with are listened to and feel valued members of the school community. We integrate pupils as fully as possible into life at the school and offer full access to a broad, balanced and relevant education, including an appropriate curriculum.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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