Skip to main content

What says..

Charming, wholesome and uncomplicated, this is a small school that thinks big, no more so than since it has the RGS brand propping it up. Music is busy and ambitious, with 65 per cent of pupils learning an instrument and excitable chit-chat among the girls about whatever performance is next on the cards, whether a class assembly or concert at Birmingham Town Hall. Drama not on curriculum (yet) but…

Read review »

What the school says...

We maintain an exclusive small school environment that allows girls to grow up at their own pace whilst receiving a first class education from our highly qualified and dedicated staff, sharing a mission to inspire high academic standards and promote co-curricular opportunities RGS Dodderhill is a very happy school.

The girls describe RGS Dodderhill as their second home; a place where they love learning, achieve highly and have the gift of a happy and uncomplicated childhood. There is not a typical RGS Dodderhill girl, we celebrate the uniqueness of every individual girl and nurture her talents whatever they may be: music, art, sport, leadership, debating, writing, science, maths, the list could go on forever!

Traditional values and manners co-exist with the best of modern technology and teaching to ensure that when our girls leave us, they are outstanding young women, fully equipped for the changes of the 21st Century.

Working closely within the family of schools allows RGS Dodderhill to share the greater resources of a bigger school. For example, girls here take part in the award winning RGSW Careers programme, share outstanding facilities including a new performing arts centre and have the security of moving into the RGS Worcester Sixth Form, if this is the right choice for them.

I extend a warm invitation to you to come along and visit RGS Dodderhill so that you can meet our current pupils and staff, soak up the atmosphere and see for yourself the difference this school will make to your daughter.
...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2019, Sarah Atkinson (50s), previously academic deputy head at RGS The Grange for nine years. She arrived five months after the school merged with RGSW and 18 months before the prep went co-ed (senior school is still girls only), so we half expected pupils and parents to have a raised eyebrow about this change maker, especially as this ‘bubble of a school’ (a pupil’s words) had long been a pretty traditional standalone girls’ school. In fact, parents just wanted to tell us how ‘lovely’ and ‘involved’ she is, as well as about her ‘open door policy’ – ‘I never feel I’m irritating her, no matter how often I contact her,’ said one. Meanwhile, pupils gushed about how ‘nice’ ‘kind’ and ‘funny’ she is, though mainly just wanted to talk about her dog, Frankie (the only school dog we’ve ever met that growled at us - perhaps the harsh truth is we lack the pupils’ charm). The RGS bit, it turns out, mainly affects things behind the scenes – more money, more sharing of best practice for staff and more sporting matches, to name a few. ‘It was never our intention to RGS-ify the school, though you do now hear parents put the RGS in front of Dodderhill when they talk about it,’ confirms Mrs A. As for the addition of boys, parents seem content with the gradual build-up (only a handful when we visited) and as one pointed out, ‘the school was once co-ed.’

London born and bred, Mrs A was educated at North London Collegiate and did her BEd with geography at Cambridge. After reasonably short stints at three independent London preps, she escaped the rat race for sea air at Trinity School in Devon for 12 years before going to the other extreme of one of the most landlocked counties by joining RGS The Grange. Lives locally with her husband and two youngest children (all four have attended RGSW). She enjoys walking Frankie, swimming, keeping fit and heading straight back to the coast.

We love it when a head’s office is front of house and this study gets extra points for being cosy, inviting and not too precious - not unlike the school itself. It suits Mrs A, who herself is welcoming and laidback – no standing on ceremony here. Covid proved a rude interruption to her first year, though the school’s wide-reaching reputation for digital innovation (all RGS schools are Apple Distinguished) meant a seamless move into online learning.

Entrance

Nursery re-opened in 2020 after a two-year closure – children join at any time following their second birthday, with automatic entry into reception. Key entry points are reception and years 5, 7 and 9, though in reality children can and do join at any point if there is space – 40 children alone did this the year before we visited, mostly those who were unimpressed with the state sector’s response to Covid. Co-ed in nursery and prep; girls only thereafter. Non-selective up to year 4, when more formal assessments include maths, English and VR (NVR for years 4-6) but it’s a broader church than other RGS schools.

Exit

All boys expected to transfer to RGSW after year 6 unless there’s an academic reason they can’t. Very few (none in 2021) girls leave at the end of year 6. After GCSEs, around half of the girls transition to RGSW (the longer-term aim is 80 per cent, with the school hoping to lure more in with increasingly broad range of A level and BTEC subjects). Rest to sixth form colleges and eg boarding.

Latest results

In 2021, 48 per cent 9-7 at GCSE. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 44 per cent 9-7 at GCSE.

Teaching and learning

Ask parents and pupils what they love about this school and chances are they’ll come back with one word – ‘small.’ Small school and small classes (single form entry of up to 16 pupils in prep and two form entry of up to 15 pupils in each from year 7) ‘mean every child is genuinely known,’ said parent. ‘If you put your hand up to ask for help, the teacher is there within five seconds, not 10 minutes like in my old school,’ lauded a pupil.

Prep is based in the 1980s (though feels newer) Goodman building, with large but homely, well-decorated (Romans, British Values etc) classrooms. Seamless transition for girls into seniors (another draw for parents) when they start to move around the various buildings organised into blocks for eg languages, maths and sciences etc. Strong work ethic comes with the territory - routines are embedded, aspirations are a given and pupils seem determined to do well though (and halleluiah to this as it’s the shortcoming of many a girls’ senior school) pupils seem to stop short of striving for perfectionism, so often the precursor to horrors such as eating disorders. Engagement is high – we saw girls handling Spheros, colourful lit-up plastic balls (seemingly with minds of their own) in a coding lesson and a (thankfully not a practical) class on radioactivity from a particularly entertaining teacher in one of the three modern labs. Sure, there were the predictably mundane spelling tests and maths workbook classes but there wasn’t a yawn in sight and everyone seemed to get a go in the year 11 discussion around war poetry that we sat in on.

Specialist teaching in PE, music and Forest School (which stretches into seniors) from nursery, with computing and IT added in year 2 and art, textiles and food technology from year 4, then everything else from year 7. French from reception and Spanish from year 5 (with a taster of both in nursery). Setting in maths and a little in English from year 7. Digital learning embedded – we saw imaginatively covered iPads (provided from year 2; parents have to buy them from year 4) in use in almost every class.

Most do 10 GCSEs (though some do eight), with top results in art and textiles (both extremely popular), music and science (around 60 per cent take triple). Most take a language, though it’s not compulsory. Computer science recently added as a GCSE and, if pupils have anything to do with it, drama will be up next – ‘I’m currently being bombarded by year 9s!’ grins head. Most take a short course in RS. No food tech GCSE – a shame, we felt, given their great kitchen facilities (lemon drizzle cake, Bakewell tart and pizzas were most recently on the menu - yum) though hats off to the school for teaching older girls how to cook on a budget, ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style.

Learning support and SEN

Taken seriously. Two EHCPs when we visited and around 50 on the SEN register, split into mild, medium or significant and accessing anything from group maths catch-ups to one-to-ones (latter costs extra). Good, sensible joined-up approach with teachers eg recent staff training about autism and girls.

The arts and extracurricular

Music is busy and ambitious, with 65 per cent of pupils learning an instrument and excitable chit-chat among the girls about whatever performance is next on the cards, whether a class assembly or concert at Birmingham Town Hall. Orchestra, ensembles, bands, chamber choir, senior and junior choirs – they’re all bursting at the seams, and it’s not too often we hear of as many as half the cohort doing music GCSE. The acapella we were privy to (Sweet Chariot crossed with She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain) had the hairs on our neck standing on end. Big take-up for the bi-annual European music trip, combined with languages. Lights of Love service in the cathedral – joint with RGSW – a very special evening, according to parents. But one parent felt that, ‘If your child is not interested in music, you can feel you’re not quite as big a part of the school as you should be.’

Drama not on curriculum (yet) but lots of school performances – we saw tinies in their poppy-themed hats practising for a Remembrance-day class assembly, and it was audition week for the whole-school production of Wizard of Oz during the week of our visit (we predict no shortage of aspiring thespians to pick from, judging from the excitable lunchtime conversations about it). No school theatre but the sports hall doubles up as one and they used the great outdoors in Covid, Midsummer Night’s Dream proving a huge hit. ‘Forest School was our backstage – we hung costumes on the branches!’ beamed a pupil. LAMDA popular, often with 100 per cent distinctions.

Spacious, well-lit and haven-like art room (we could have stayed all day) with equally welcoming textiles studio, both located upstairs in the main Georgian house. ‘Oh my gosh, have you seen the older girls’ paintings?’ asked a wide-eyed prep pupil when we told her where we were off to; we were also drawn to the mood board books that some girls were working on when we visited, and the giant sweet wrapper designs of the younger lot must also get a mention (Wispa gets our vote). Canvas, oils, pastels and pointillism more common than ceramics and photography (though there is a club for the latter). Fine art and graphic communications both available at GCSE – some girls squeeze in both. Good numbers get art scholarships for RGSW sixth form.

Clubs include all the usual sports, drama, music and debating, but also sailing, Dungeons and Dragons, LEGO and – we love this – wild reading, in which girls find spots around and up trees to take their page-turners. Apparently, additional maths (for extra UCAS points) is a big hit too. Plentiful trips – Blist Hill for Victorians, Globe Theatre for English etc right through to cycling in Croatia and the bi-annual ski trip.

Sport

‘I link sport with mental health,’ the head told us – music to many parents’ ears. On the week of our visit, yet another news report had come out about the depressing proportion of girls that drop out of sports during puberty, but there’s little chance of that happening here even for those who aren’t naturals – ‘I don’t like sport, if I’m honest,’ confided one girl, ‘but here they just make it fun.’ Perhaps not an obvious choice if your child lives for their sport – ‘the academics are definitely seen as more important,’ said a parent. But there’s specialist coaching and considerable success in netball (which gets the most silverware), hockey (a growing focus), cricket and athletics – and the connection with RGS (well-known for sport) is bound to up the ante (plus, it can’t do any harm that two of the head’s children played hockey for England). There are more fixtures than ever, largely thanks to RGS interplay and increasingly against other schools too (sometimes using mixed RGS teams – a force to be reckoned with, no doubt). Also on offer are tennis, football, badminton, dance, gymnastics, fencing, trampolining and a popular lunchtime running club. A full-size Astro is high on everyone’s wish list and the courts look a bit tired, but there’s a great sports hall, playing field and small Astro - and they have use of the new hockey centre at Fernhill Heath. Watch this space for a small multi-gym, all thanks to PTA funding.

Ethos and heritage

Don’t type the school’s name into your satnav unless you want to be told you’ve reached your destination on a busy (and not even the nearest) roundabout. Thankfully the school receptionists are extremely helpful, even staying on the phone as we zigzagged round the residential streets to eventually find this hidden gem. Given the ‘small is beautiful’ ethos that parents had raved about, we were surprised by the scale – seven acres with well-maintained facilities all packed into a neat campus with the jewel in the crown the main Georgian house. Outside, our favourite bits were Forest School (‘where we light fire pits and have hot chocolate,’ according to one pupil), the adventure playground and vast expanse of grass to let rip on. But younger ones would like more outside play equipment and older ones spoke dreamily about their longing for a common room.

The school started life in Bromsgrove’s Whitford Hall in 1945. Its founder, Miss Mary Booker, couldn’t stay away, it seems – not only did she remain head until her retirement in 1972 but she returned a year later to lead the newly acquired Dodderhill School in 1973, finally retiring in 1978. The selling of the Whitford estate brought the two schools together, originally called Whitford and Dodderhill School, then just Dodderhill and now RGS Dodderhill. The fourth school to join the RGS family (the others are two preps and a senior school), it has essentially become a diamond structure: co-ed in prep, girls only for years 7-11, then (for girls who go to RGSW in sixth form) co-ed again for years 12-13.

The vibe is spirited and gung-ho – these girls love to crack on and give things a go. ‘It can make it tricky for less confident types, but only when they first join - nobody takes long to come out of their shell,’ said a pupil over lunch in the bijou dining hall (food is very popular here), with the rest of the girls nodding hard in agreement as they devoured the tasty chicken curry. ‘I wasn’t confident when I arrived but you’re made so welcome,’ confided one. Traditional grey and gold uniform may be in for an overhaul, if only the woollen blazer, though perhaps don’t hold your breath given that girls told us it took them a whole year to get agreement on allowing girls to wear trousers.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

As with all four RGS schools, pastoral care is the bedrock, intrinsic to everything. System of form tutors, pastoral deputy head, school nurse and a school counsellor all help (with lots of meetings to make sure no child is missed), as does the small scale school and classes (though they bring in the whole cavalry from RGS if needed). School does not shy away from uncomfortable truths – the head brought up Everyone’s Invited before we did - would have been so easy not to when the senior pupils are all female, ‘but they’re still going out in the world so we have a duty to address it,’ she stated. Self-harm discussed openly in our meeting with her too – with school’s attitude not just to warn pupils of dangers and provide a listening ear but also for the school nurse to help keep wounds clean and signpost to next-level support where necessary. By and large, though, the stresses and strains that so often accompanies girls’ schools, especially around exam time, seem to largely escape this lot – perhaps it’s back to the size and not having 100 girls in the year to wind each other up – but of course they’re not immune and girls are good at asking for help not only for themselves but their friends. Parents talk glowingly about the warmth of the school and girls like that they get to interact across age groups – ‘She’s my friend from a club and she’s my friend just because she’s lovely,’ said one girl, pointing to two others, one in the year below, the other in the year above. Another told us how she had come up with the idea of Friendly Fridays, in which younger ones come to older ones for support at the end of the week.

Pupils know to toe the line here but as with all youngsters, they are finding their way and (in the senior school) teenagers and not always angels. Credits, debits, negatives and detentions mainly keep things in check, though some girls told us they felt ‘the school is quicker to hand on the negatives than the positives’ (not true, says school – so far this term, one detention and 27 negatives compared to over 400 credits). Temporary exclusions are like hen’s teeth (one under current head’s tenure), permanent ones non-existent.

Pupils and parents

Pupils are upbeat, polite and chatty, nobody holding back from speaking their mind. Bring it on, we say. Less streetwise than at other local schools – and the girls know it, a few revealing that they were a bit worried ‘how it will be when we leave’ (head of RGSW insists they need not be – ‘they slot in really well when they get here, both educationally and socially’). Catchment increasingly wide: used to be mainly Droitwich, Bromsgrove and Worcester – now stretches up to Licky Hills, Solihull and South Birmingham, the comprehensive minibus and shuttlebus system a godsend for the mainly dual income parents. Lots of first-time buyers among parents, who are mainly middle class professionals, along with some farming families. All praise the ‘family feel’, though some feel school comms could do with an overhaul.

Money matters

Fees marginally lower than other RGS schools, with very few hidden extras. Means tested bursaries available – up to 90 per cent of fees in some cases. Academic and music scholarships available in years 7 and 9, with school looking to add sport and art in the future.

The last word

Charming, wholesome and uncomplicated, this is a small school that thinks big, even more so now that it has the RGS brand propping it up. ‘We’ve kept our Dodderhill-ness but nicked all the best bits of RGS,’ one staff member divulged. Won’t suit those that thrive on the hustle and bustle of larger environments or youngsters with a more rebellious streak, but otherwise is the kind of school that girls winding up becoming so nostalgic about that they send their own offspring there.

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


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.