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The overall vibe is one of intimacy and acceptance and although it no longer has the ‘wild west’ vibe of its past, there’s definitely more than a sniff of freedom. Pupils of all age groups smile and greet one another in the hallways, there’s certainly no feeling of social boundaries hampered by hierarchy and ‘community’ is a word that comes up time and again in conversations; the oldest girls saying that they are seeking out...

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What the school says...

Queen's College occupies four elegant and spacious houses in Harley Street. The College is academically selective, and great importance is placed on the development of the talents of each individual girl and on pastoral care. Results are impressive, and students go on to competitive degree courses (including Oxbridge).

Classes are small yet the curriculum is wide at both GCSE and A-level. Five modern languages are taught as well as Latin and Greek; the three separate sciences are available throughout. Provision for the creative arts is outstanding and good use is made of the cultural resources of central London. Sport takes place in Regent's Park and a wide variety of activities are on offer, with a full programme of fixtures in the traditional team games.

Queen's College is a unique institution. It has an exceptional history behind it and an ambitious, warm and distinctive approach to the education of young women in the 21st century.
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What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Art & Design at an English Independent School (GCSE)

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since September 2017, Richard Tillett (40s), former deputy head at Harrogate Ladies’ College. Degree in modern languages and history from Cambridge. Driven by altruism from a young age, says he knew from the get go the City or corporate life wasn’t for him, so eschewed the milk round corporates and joined the health service training scheme, specialising in mental health. Disillusioned by bureaucracy, gained his PGCE from Sussex and hasn’t looked back. Taught history and politics at King Edward VI Grammar and was housemaster and history teacher at The Leys before joining Harrogate Ladies’ in 2010 as head of sixth form.

Wife and daughter remain in North Yorkshire from where he commutes weekly. So what drew him to QCL from so far afield for his first headship? ‘Just a brilliant fit’, he says. ‘I was struck by its extraordinary history and values – it’s a school where the default position is to be kind’. Says pastoral care is ‘absolutely the most important thing’, and parents concur that this key cornerstone of Queen’s hasn’t wavered on his watch. Fans of former head (even the ‘sexist’ ones hoping for another strong female role model) have not been disappointed with his arrival, describing him in a flurry of superlatives: ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘such a character’. Keeps his hand in teaching A level politics and has seized his predecessor’s baton of believing that ‘girls are able to do anything’. Had to manoeuvre his way through some awkward and unpleasant situations with some troublesome junior pupils early in his tenure, a situation that resulted in a handful of departures, but parents on the inside tell us ‘things were dealt with pretty quickly’ and the ship has stabilised now. Has made some major positive strides in changing sixth form curriculum to bring it in line with his vision: ‘to prepare Queen’s girls for the uncertainty of the future.’ This on top of a whole school assembly to kick off every week and the introduction of a new house system. Next up will be to face the challenge of stabilising a formerly high staff turnover – we’ll watch with interest. Mastermind specialist subject would be either Russian history (he’s a Russian speaker) or Arsenal FC. Avid follower of football and cricket, cellist and lover of travel, good food and hill walking.

Academic matters

Not top of the academic heap in the London girls’ day school scene but on the up and now giving local rivals Channing, South Hampstead High and Francis Holland a real run for their money – matching or outperforming them on results day. ‘Academics are now largely where we want them to be’, says head; 2018 saw school achieve its best ever results, with 57 per cent A*/A at A level and 89 per cent A*-B. Head has axed girls taking a fourth or half A level (apart from in exceptional cases or for those taking further maths) in favour of a standard three A levels plus EPQ for all. Broad range of subjects at A level, with ‘totally flexible’ timetabling making unusual combinations possible. English takes the popularity prize followed closely by history and religious studies, all with top results. Sciences and further maths less so, particularly physics, and stellar grades less prevalent in these departments. Languages also niche at A level despite strong provision in KS3 with Mandarin, Spanish, French and Italian all offered in year 7. Top Latin set introduced to ancient Greek in year 9 – also available at GCSE with a small take up.

Don’t expect your year 7 daughter to be thrust into an academic frenzy on arrival – those at the top of their prep school might find themselves freewheeling at first. The approach is ‘softly softly’, say parents, with academic focus gently ramping up as girls progress through the school. Ten GCSEs is the default, with respectable results: 42 per cent graded A*/9-8 in 2018 and 71 per cent A*-A/9-7. Girls now take the robust IGCSE in almost all academic subjects (exceptions are Latin, RS and Italian), with no obvious areas of weakness. Computing GCSE newly introduced. ‘Results are going up precisely because we are not a robotic exam factory,’ says head, and girls concur, reporting the secret of their most recent exam success (aside from the ‘unstuffy’ teachers who are ‘very generous’ with their time) as ‘being there for each other’. Parents ‘not surprised’ by good results pouring out of ‘an environment with such a tremendous amount of respect that makes girls feel so comfortable.’

Three form entry into year 7 with a maximum of 22 per form makes for an intimate feel where ‘all staff know who your child is’. We heard mutters, but only from one or two parents, about a ‘lack of focus’ on reading. Newly appointed director of teaching and learning now facilitates good practice and innovation amongst teaching staff. New Firefly platform not only allows staff to set online homework but also provides access to class materials and enrichment activities for pupils as well as showcasing best examples of work.

One ‘talented’ SENCo in situ and there are some 65 girls with diagnosed SpLD on the register as well as another 25 or so with undiagnosed needs. Approach to support is absolutely ‘can do’ and ‘totally inclusive’ with minimal withdrawal from classes – never from curriculum subjects. Most is included in fees and there's a collaborative approach with the pastoral team. School has experience dealing with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia plus ADHD / ADD, visual impairment and anxiety disorders; ‘girls who might be isolated in other schools are not, here’. Some of site is wheelchair accessible and, if necessary, timetabling would be managed to cater for pupils with mobility issues. No EAL students at the time of our visit but we were assured it was all doable.

Games, options, the arts

With its central London location, tiny (albeit charming) outdoor courtyard and subterranean gymnasium, we wondered whether Queen’s could possibly be a good fit for super sporty girls. Parents of girls in upper years say ‘definitely not’, but since the recent appointment of a ‘wonderful’ new head of sport and the decision to stop marching girls to substandard facilities in Regents Park and instead transport them by ‘nice warm coach’ to the all singing, all dancing Paddington Rec, we think it’s worth a second look. Thanks to access to these facilities, hockey and athletics are now available, as well as netball, football (coached by a former pro), tag rugby, lacrosse and cricket, played at nearby Lord’s; school assures us that new pupils are ‘assured an amazing sporting experience’. PE teachers run clubs almost every evening and there are fixtures aplenty for those that want them, with A and B teams plus a development squad for all sports – although success depends on the year group (‘it’s work in progress’, says school). Sixth formers now have compulsory games sessions with broader options and are able to use the gym at Paddington. Their Wednesday afternoons are spent either taking part in work experience or charity initiatives in the local community.

Dance, on curriculum in years 7 to 9, has been ‘revolutionised’ by ‘amazing’ new hires who are inspiring girls with Fosse, African and tap in addition to more traditional dance forms. The annual dance show is ‘on another level’, say parents. Swimming takes place at Marshall Street Leisure Centre. On curriculum to year 9 and available at both GCSE and A level, with good take up at both levels, drama also ‘massively ramped up’ following arrival of another new, buzzy departmental head. Tons of opportunities to perform: at the time of our visit productions in rehearsal included Jane Eyre, Cinderella (panto version) and various pieces for the approaching house drama competition. There’s also an academic drama showcase each year, up to 40 girls taking the Trinity Board certificates, a plethora of lunch time clubs to cater for thespian inclinations plus chances to collaborate with boys’ schools on their dramatic endeavours – recently The History Boys with Harrow and Frankenstein with Wetherby. Music also flying high and yes, you guessed it, there’s a super new director of music (with a passion for jazz) at the helm. Ensembles and choirs galore perform everything from classical and jazz to pop at the major concerts at the end of each term and informal half termly performances. School orchestra comprises pupils from grade 3 to diploma level, with sixth formers happily presiding over rehearsals if needed. School is well connected to both Wigmore Hall and the Royal Albert Hall to see professionals at work and there are applications most years to both the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music. Carols take place at All Souls Church in Langham Place, jazz musicians join their male counterparts as part of Harrow’s big hand and there are plans to stage a collaborative performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall to celebrate QCL’s 170th anniversary.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1848 and given a royal charter in 1853, the first institution in Great Britain to give academic qualifications to girls. Still on its original site spanning four elegant, well-proportioned Georgian houses – and so discreet you barely notice it amongst the neighbouring smart doctors’ consulting rooms – it has been altered through the years to provide a well-equipped, modern learning environment whilst maintaining its historic charm. The William Morris wallpaper decorating the ground floor corridor – tastefully toning in with the teal sweater worn by girls in ‘the school’ (years 7-9) – together with the high ceilings, large windows and sweeping staircases, speaks volumes about the school’s style. A warren of charming nooks, crannies and staircases hang all the facilities together; charming oak panelled libraries with light streaming in cater for different age groups and we loved the ‘fish bowl’ IT suite with its incongruously futuristic feel. Classrooms not the largest or most modern we’ve seen and the labs could certainly do with a face lift (although the lessons we observed were lively, interactive and looked huge fun), but they all do the job adequately. The multi- purpose school hall ticks all the boxes with its smart lighting rig, and an unexpected delight is the beautiful, modern sixth form centre – a largely glazed roof extension – reached via a lift that whisks the eldest girls up to a serene sanctuary of their own.

The overall vibe is one of intimacy and acceptance and although it no longer has the ‘wild west’ vibe of its past, there’s definitely more than a sniff of freedom. Pupils of all age groups smile and greet one another in the hallways, there’s certainly no feeling of social boundaries hampered by hierarchy and ‘community’ is a word that comes up time and again in conversations, the oldest girls saying that they are seeking out the same feeling in their university destination choices. Individuality is a theme too; the uniform – although under scrutiny by new head who is keen to keep things smart(ish) – is pretty casual; girls in years 10 and 11 (junior college) wear school white shirt and blue jumper but can choose their own bottom half (apparently brightly coloured and patterned trousers are in, black leggings are out). Sixth formers are free to wear their own clothes, and fashion statements such as blue or pink hair are allowed and not unusual; ‘girls are allowed to be eccentric’, say parents. Different sexualities and gender identities are embraced and supported. Parents say there’s ‘quite a feminist’ culture – ‘it’s all about finding out what you’re into and encouraging it’.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Pastoral care a key strength of school, parents uniformly telling us it’s ‘really kind’ and ‘feels like a family’. Pupils love the ‘cosiness’ and ‘old fashioned nature’ of the school, with many telling us it was love at first sight when they walked through the doors on their first visit and describing it as ‘relaxed’ and ‘non-judgemental’. Year heads and form tutors oversee the development of each girl with a head of section above them to step in on major issues as required. ‘Staff talk to each other and join the dots,’ parents told us. New school counsellor available by appointment one day a week. Disciplinary issues seem to be few and far between – perhaps because of the relatively relaxed vibe, there’s no need to push boundaries with silly transgressions.

‘Big sister, little sister’ scheme has been enhanced to add a ‘middle sister’ so the younger party doesn’t feel bereft when the eldest leaves the school. Years 10 and 11 are trained to mentor younger girls in relation to responsible internet use: ‘they’re the experts’, says school. Pupils feel very well supported and the ethos is very much about helping them overcome mistakes within a safe environment. Even bullying is dealt with in the most humane way possible – despite zero tolerance policy, we were told that ‘a happy child doesn’t bully, so we give them support too’. New house system seems to be a good addition (although head admits it hasn’t all been plain sailing) and girls, although initially reluctant to throw themselves into house events and competitions, admit to enjoying them all. Years 7 to 9 hand phones in when they arrive at school in the morning.

Pupils and parents

Tiger mums move along please – Queen’s parents describe their girls as ‘happy go lucky…perhaps that’s why they do well’. Head says parents ‘trust us to get on with it’, although parents say school does like them to be involved, not that they need much enticing into school, with information meetings generally turning into jolly social occasions. We are assured that ‘wealthy, spoilt girls are few and far between’ these days and we felt no sense of entitlement amongst the sincere, ambitious and personable young women we met on our visit. ‘Really varied’ parent body according to head – plenty in academia as well as the creative industries and almost never flashy. Reflective of modern central London, many have international backgrounds and although the majority were born in the UK, around 40 different languages are spoken at home. Majority from quite nearby – Notting Hill, Belsize Park and St John’s Wood - although we also met girls from as far afield as Harrow and Hackney. With such excellent transport links the majority travel to and from school by tube. Former pupils include Amber Rudd and Emma Freud; ‘Queen’s girls are interesting people’, say parents.

Entrance

No automatic entrance from Queen’s College Prep but a good percentage come from there. Otherwise over 40 different feeder schools, with up to a quarter from local state primaries. Mainly into year 7 via the London 11+ Consortium (formerly the North London Girls' Schools Consortium). Now a bespoke cognitive ability test (maths, VR and NVR), an 'imaginative interview experience' to explore candidates' skills, aptitudes and intellectual acuity and a common reference form for prep schools to detail wider contextual information on attitudes and character as well as academic performance. Some 500 applicants for 60 places. Unusually, everyone is interviewed before the exam. ‘We like to form a picture of the child without seeing her test results.’ Genuinely selective and looking for someone who is going to enjoy getting involved and seize the opportunities available. A handful join into sixth form; requirements are minimum of grades 6 or 7 in chosen A level subjects (although some subjects have own criteria) plus minimum grade 5 in maths and English and reference from current school.

Exit

Some 30 per cent leave after GCSEs, mostly to board or move into the state system. It isn’t usual for girls to be asked to leave if GCSEs aren’t up to scratch but school doesn’t offer ‘soft options’ at A level so occasionally pupils do depart for this reason. Post A level leavers to a range of universities and colleges to read a vast array of subjects, from the trad academics to business related degrees in fashion or music. Russell Group universities feature heavily in the leavers’ list, along with new universities, arts colleges and some overseas (there is a dedicated international university counsellor). In 2018, two to Oxbridge (education; theology and religion), two medics and one to Berklee, USA.

Money matters

Several means-tested bursaries available at 11+ and 16+, funded by the Old Queen's bursary trust fund – around 15 full and eight partial bursaries at the time of our visit. Academic, music and art scholarships, for up to 25 per cent of fees, for both internal and external candidates.

Our view

Head is possibly the first we’ve met who claims to have drawn career inspiration from lavatory graffiti (albeit at Cambridge): ‘work hard and be nice to people’, it said, and to us that sums up Queen’s. Proof that you don’t have to be in a pressure cooker to get good results; solid academics, the arts, sport and tip top pastoral: ‘it’s all here for the taking’, say parents. Dynamic new head and staff are moving things up a notch – we hope they all stay put. One to watch.

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

Queen's College focuses on the development and needs of each individual. All new girls are screened to see if they have specific learning difficulties and when a pupil requires help, whether for basic study skills or essay technique at A Level, we provide up to half a term of sessions with our educational support specialist.

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)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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