Skip to main content

What says..

One of the most popular members of the school community is Spitfire, an 18-month-old black lurcher, who belongs to the student welfare co-ordinator (she also teaches biology and is known as ‘Spitfire’s mum’). A well-being dog, Spitfire is a comforting presence when girls feel stressed, worried or tired. When the registrar announced to a group of year 9s that Spitfire had just become a father to seven puppies, a unanimous ‘aaaaah’ went round the room...

Read review »

What the school says...

The Royal High School Bath is a secret gem of a school that gives girls confidence, capability and a strong set of values needed to underpin success at university, throughout careers and in achieving aspirations in every aspect of life. Its a leading independent boarding and day school for girls aged 3-18, a seamless journey with four unique experiences from the Nursery to the Junior School, Senior School to Sixth Form College (offering A levels as well as the International Baccalaureate). Its an all-through, all-encompassing, all-girls education that delivers outstanding academic results and nurtures self assured, courteous and articulate young women who are aware of, and who can achieve, their full potential.

Established in 1864 and set in beautiful grounds within walking distance of the centre of Bath, a city combining history and tradition with a vibrant, contemporary cultural scene, RHS is inclusive and caring, the perfect place for girls to study, have fun, make friends, enjoy life and develop a global perspective in education.
...Read more

What the parents say...

No comments received for Royal High School Bath

Please login to post a comment.

2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Italian at an English Independent School (Level1/2 certificates)

Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

Other features

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 2015, Jo Duncan MA PGCE (40s). Previously head of Princess Helena College in Hertfordshire. Grew up in Northern Ireland, where she attended a girls’ grammar school. Studied English and theology at St Andrews, with the intention of working as a lawyer or teacher. After stints working in schools in Hungary and Romania during her university years she realised she felt ‘very at home in the classroom’ so opted to do a PGCE at Homerton College, Cambridge. First teaching post was at The Latymer School, a high performing state school in north London, where she taught RS for four years. Then moved to Benenden, where she spent seven years and ‘fell in love with boarding and its community feel’. Encouraged by the then Benenden head Claire Oulton to apply for the Princess Helena headship – and was appointed at the relatively young age of 33. Spent seven years at Princess Helena – ‘a nice length of time’ – but was attracted to the Royal High by its bigger size, boarding (it’s the only Girls’ Day School Trust school with boarders) and the fact that it offers the IB as well as A levels. ‘The quality of the teaching really struck me,’ she says, ‘and being part of the GDST is exciting. It’s the most fabulous network for heads, teachers and pupils and the opportunities are amazing.’ Parents are impressed by her energy and drive. ‘She has very good ideas,’ one told us, ‘and she has really improved the boarding facilities.’

Asked to describe Royal High girls, the head stresses that the school is ‘not a hothouse’, with pupils ranging from the highly academic to those with a ‘much broader academic profile’. As you’d expect, she’s a firm advocate of single-sex schools and says the Royal High ‘focuses on how girls learn’ and helps them achieve in all aspects of life, from lessons to leadership. Coincidentally, on the day of our visit, the papers featured apposite comments from Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman, saying that single-sex schools help to cut gender stereotyping and encourage girls to explore ‘typically male subjects’.

Married to Murray, a London lawyer. They have two children – their son is a pupil at Kingswood, just over the road from the Royal High, and their daughter is a pupil at the Royal High’s junior school – and live in a house on the school site. In her spare time she enjoys travel, skiing, theatre, ballet and reading.

Off to head Wycombe Abbey in July 2019.

Academic matters

Excellent teaching and very good results. One parent praised the Royal High’s teaching as ‘the very highest calibre’ while another told us that girls achieve their potential without the element of pressure sometimes found in girls’ schools. ‘They are expected to do well but they don’t seem to be stressed about doing well,’ she said. In 2018, 69 per cent 9-7 at GCSE and 53 per cent A*/A at A level. School has offered the IB since 2008 and girls achieved average score of 39 in 2018. Lots of help and guidance about the respective merits of the IB and A levels, including an IB/A levels-themed Any Questions event. Sixth formers are encouraged to take the EPQ too. Most girls do 10 or 11 subjects at GCSE, including two or three sciences and at least one language.

Strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, with impressive numbers choosing sciences at A level (when we visited, a quarter of the sixth form were taking chemistry). ‘We do lots of experiments and practicals,’ a year 10 girl told us. ‘My favourite lesson was when we made toy helicopters and flew them off the balcony. Science is so much fun.’ Maths is the most popular A level subject, with year 13 girls giving extra help to younger pupils during their lunch break. Languages are particularly strong – French, German, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin on offer, plus Latin from year 7. Head girl told us she did four languages at GCSE, as well as Mandarin AS. Pupils are keen on Vocab Express, an online vocab learning challenge, and at the time of our visit a group of year 10 and 11 girls had been placed eighth nationally. Lots of language and exchange trips. A sixth former waxed lyrical about a recent trip to China, where she’d taught English in a primary school.

School is broadly selective, but probably not the place for girls with extensive learning needs. Learning support ranges from in-class support to one-to-one help (girls are never withdrawn from core curriculum subjects). As the school says: ‘The majority of girls we currently support are those with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. We also have some girls with ADHD, autism and a few girls with sensory impairments such as hearing difficulties.’

Games, options, the arts

Pupils are proud of the school’s sporting successes, notably in hockey, netball, athletics, swimming, fencing and taekwondo. ‘We hold our own,’ says the head. At the time of our visit a year 13 had just been selected for Bath Rugby Ladies team after a year of playing the sport. Sports facilities include sports hall, outdoor swimming pool, fitness suite, hockey pitches, netball courts and new Astro opened by Olympic gold-medal winning hockey player Kate Richardson-Walsh. The school also uses the University of Bath’s sports pitches.

Performing arts are big at the Royal High. Dynamic director of music (a composer who previously worked for EMI and the BBC) encourages musicians of all standards and abilities to have a go. All-inclusive music programme features 35+ events a year, performed by five choirs, orchestra, swing band, strings group, woodwind ensemble, rock bands and more. Carol service at Bath Abbey is the highlight of the year for many parents. All year 7, 8 and 9 pupils get an hour’s classroom music a week, learning about different styles of music, performance and composition, plus taster lessons to help them decide the instruments most suited to them. Around 300 instrumental lessons per week, with 14 girls a year taking GCSE music and up to eight doing A level. We met a talented sixth form singer who has already released two EPs of her own.

Wonderful art produced in the light, airy art school, with four studios and panoramic views to inspire girls’ creativity. We particularly admired a sculpture made of wire, tights and teapots representing pattern and rhythm and a remarkably accomplished series of countryside paintings by a sixth former who brought in bags of twigs, sticks and leaves for inspiration. Up to 40 girls a year take art GCSE, 20 take A level and four or five take art as part of the IB. Well-equipped DT department has an ultra-sophisticated 3D printer and a four-axis router. Head of DT says he’s ‘constantly surprised’ by the girls’ ideas, showing us a student’s stunning faux-leather backpack inspired by an armadillo. Drama and dance in the Sophie Cameron Performing Arts Centre and school’s dance studio. Loads of successes in the Mid-Somerset Festival and LAMDA exams. Year 13 girls run a drama club for year 7s and there’s a plethora of school and house productions throughout the year. Recent shows include The Tempest, The Wizard of Oz and The Crucible, with rehearsals for Oliver! taking place when we visited.

School has a strong international focus and links with schools as far afield as New York, Kenya and Sydney. Year 9 girls get the chance to do a five-week exchange with Australian girls – ‘the most fantastic experience,’ a parent told us. An enterprising sixth former set up a charity project, designing and producing cards and gifts to raise money for a school in Kenya. Year 8s take part in an enterprise day with nearby boys’ state school Beechen Cliff and older girls do Model United Nations debates with Kingswood and King Edward’s School, Bath. There’s also the Aspire programme, an academic enrichment programme featuring after-school lectures, activities and debates.

Boarders

Boarding numbers are growing steadily. New head of boarding joined from Benenden in 2016 and is responsible for the development of boarding at the Royal High. Around two-thirds of boarders are from overseas – from China, Hong Kong, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Kenya (30 nationalities in all). Boarding from year 7 (also available to year 5 and 6 girls from the junior school). Two boarding houses – School House for younger girls and Gloucester House for sixth formers. Full and weekly boarding only. Flexi boarding is available subject to availability of beds. Lots of weekend activities, including pottery painting, baking, Zumba, spa days, expeditions to places like Harry Potter World and theatre and cultural trips. Girls are allowed to walk the mile down the hill into Bath – year 7s are escorted while year 8s go in groups of four.

Boarding houses are comfortable, homely and chic, so much so that day girls jump at the chance to do the occasional sleepover. Youngest girls are in wholesome dorms of four or five while sixth formers get doubles or singles. Sixth form boarding house is ‘a stepping stone to university’, with girls able to cook and do their own washing if they wish. Sixth form café attached, where day girls and boarders can relax and chill.

Background and atmosphere

Bath is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the first glimpse of the school is an impressive Victorian stone monolith at the top of a steep drive off the city’s picturesque Lansdown Road. Extensive refurbishment programme in progress when we visited on a blustery October day but the school’s listed Grade II buildings are stunning, especially when viewed under a glowing orange sun. Many of the classrooms, dorms and the head’s office boast panoramic views across the school’s 11-acre site to the city and beyond. The Royal High has blazed a trail as the only GDST school to offer boarding – a legacy from the amalgamation between Bath High School and the Royal School back in 1998. It admitted boys for a brief period but has been all-girls since 2010.

Sixth formers wear business suits rather than uniform. Younger girls are very happy with their new navy blazers and tartan skirts. Unlike some schools, no over-the-top make-up – ‘we don’t do contouring here,’ grinned a year 9 pupil at lunch, to the merriment of her friends. Food, provided by catering company Holroyd Howe, is very good. Lots of choice, including vegetarian and gluten-free options, all carefully labelled, pasta, salads, sandwiches and hot meals.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Girls are well looked after and look after each other well. No behaviour problems – just the occasional social media or friendship issue typical of girls of this age. Parents like the school’s size (‘not too big, and not too small so everyone knows everyone’) and say that if an issue arises the school ‘is on it very quickly’. ‘We talk to the girls all the time about who they are and what they want to achieve,’ says the head. ‘As a girls’ school we want to be a positive place where girls can flourish and grow.’ All pupils have a one-hour PSHEE (personal, social, health and economic education) session per fortnight and school also runs Your Daughter, a programme of talks for parents on topics like developing resilience and happiness, surviving social media and the dangers of illegal drugs and legal highs. When suitable, girls attend these talks with their parents or hear their own version in school.

One of the most popular members of the school community is Spitfire, an 18-month-old black lurcher, who belongs to the student welfare co-ordinator (she also teaches biology and is known as ‘Spitfire’s mum’). A well-being dog, Spitfire is a comforting presence when girls feel stressed, worried or tired. When the registrar announced to a group of year 9s that Spitfire had just become a father to seven puppies, a unanimous ‘aaaaah’ went round the room. He even got a round of applause on a recent open day.

School is keen on encouraging leadership and responsibility. It hosts the annual GDST Young Leaders’ Conference, where year 13 student leaders from all 25 GDST sixth forms get the chance to network, take part in teamwork challenges and hear a host of inspiring speakers. The sixth formers then feed back to the rest of the school in assemblies. Head girl, boarding deputy, day deputy and four additional prefects – all voted in by staff and pupils (year 10s and up). Year 13s mentor younger girls and everyone takes pride in belonging to one of four houses named after impressive women – Austen, Bronte, Wollstonecraft and Du Pré.

Pupils and parents

The pupils are sparky girls who throw themselves into lessons, music, sport and extracurricular activities with enthusiasm and panache. We particularly enjoyed lunch with a group of chatty year 9s, who, with the amused registrar in attendance, talked about everything from the ‘great’ integration of boarders and day pupils to the ‘reasonable’ amount of homework they get. They were funny, charming and keen to extol the virtues of their school. ‘We feel like we can be ourselves here,’ said one girl. Another said that that everyone was ‘so accepting’ and she didn’t feel any peer pressure.

All agreed that the Royal High is not a snobby school. Parents come from all backgrounds, including business people, medics, media types and ex-Londoners. Sixty per cent of day pupils live in Bath, others are from Somerset and Gloucestershire – some walk to school, some commute by bus and train. Famous alumnae include baking supremo Mary Berry, Baroness Elspeth Howe and entrepreneur Emily Brooke, who designed a pioneering laser bike light.

Entrance

Competition for year 7 places is less intense than you might think. Around 100 girls a year apply and the school offers 80 places. The entrance assessment takes place in January – an interview first, then English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-reasoning tests a few days later. Around 95 per cent from the junior school progress to the senior school via a transfer test.

Up to 15 girls join in year 9 and 35 or so in year 12. Sixth formers need six Bs at GCSE, including As in subjects they want to study at A level or the IB.

Exit

Around a quarter leave after GCSEs, either for a change of scene or to do other subjects. At 18 almost all to university with a healthy smattering of medics and engineers, plus a few to art foundation courses and drama school. Three to Oxbridge and two medics in 2018.

Leavers join the GDST’s Alumnae Network, which offers mentoring for GDST alumnae and sixth formers, university advice, career development and networking opportunities. The Royal High encourages former pupils to inspire and mentor their younger counterparts – old girls return to talk about their careers and many offer work experience.

Money matters

Good value for money, especially as textbooks, stationery, most extracurricular activities and sixth-form laptops are included. Boarding fees are cheaper than many other boarding schools due to GDST economies of scale. A raft of scholarships and bursaries available, including academic, art, dance, drama, music and sport. STEM scholarships offered in year 9 and year 12. Means-tested bursaries (up to 100 per cent of the fees) for students demonstrating ‘outstanding all-round academic ability’.

Our view

A happy, high achieving, very go-ahead school with a distinctive ethos, sense of community and impressive results. For parents looking for a single sex-school (day and/or boarding) we can’t think of any girl who wouldn’t thrive here.

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

As a selective independent school we tend to primarily provide support for students who have English as a second language and for those who demonstrate dyslexic tendendencies. As such, we have in-house peripatetic specialists available if students opt to have support lessons. These sessions (either on an individual or small group basis) tend to be timetabled outside of lesson times to cause minimum disruption to the students academic day. Nov 09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
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

  Zoopla sale properties   Zoopla rent properties   Hide Zoopla markers

Powered by Zoopla

Who came from where


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

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

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

Tired of London schools? There’s plenty of life elsewhere…

 
 

For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide London North and London South