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The school does academically better than it’s sometimes perceived to. In fact, it is now a serious contender in the competitive local market, with top notch facilities also a pull for many families. Teachers adept at drawing the best out of everyone, whatever their abilities, and the emphasis on the arts and extracurricular means girls leave well-rounded and confident. Nurturing, but not ...

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What the school says...

The Royal Masonic is a distinctive girls' day and boarding school occupying a stunning 300 acre site within 30 minutes of Central London. RMS accepts girls from a relatively wide range of ability and offers an exceptionally broad curriculum. Sport, art, textiles, design technology and the performing arts are all outstanding features. RMS girls are encouraged and supported within a nurturing community to fulfil their potential, both academically and personally. Our results represent outstanding added value. Girls emerge as highly qualified, confident young women with excellent interpersonal skills. They go on to achieve highly at university and in the world of work ...Read more

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Excellent performance by Girls taking Additional Science at an English Independent School (GCSE)

2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Performing Arts at an English Independent School (GCSE Full Course)

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.

Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

Fencing

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since January 2017, Kevin Carson BA MPhil PGCE (40s), previously co-interim head at The Grammar School at Leeds. Has headed up the English and drama departments at Cheltenham College and subsequently Abingdon School, also taking on the role of resident tutor in boarding houses in both schools. He particularly championed equal opportunities for his female tutees within Cheltenham’s co-educational environment.

Original plan was to go into academia, but after spending ‘more time in the library than with people’ while doing his postgrad, he ‘realised a more sociable career might suit me better.’ Became so passionate about teaching as soon as he’d tried it that ‘friends said I talked about nothing else – not even small talk,’ he laughs. Still teaches year 7s and 8s and sixth formers. ‘It’s absolutely the best way to get to know the students,’ he says.

With his broad (by southern standards) Scouse accent and laid-back demeanour, he’s certainly not your stereotypical headteacher of a home counties private girls’ school, but parents and pupils are thrilled with him. ‘Make no mistake, he had big boots to fill,’ says one parent, ‘but I think everyone would agree he is absolutely dedicated to the children and it shows.’ Girls say he is ‘around a lot, whether teaching, doing lunch duty or assemblies and sometimes he just pops into lessons – we really feel we know him.’

Married to Sarah, with two daughters, both in the junior school. Outside of school, the family pursues a wide range of sporting and cultural interests.

Academic matters

The school does academically better than it’s sometimes perceived to. In fact, it’s turning formerly dismissive heads and winning more and more parental votes with persistently improving results. In 2018, 49 per cent A*/A grades at A level and 60 per cent A*-A/9-7 at GCSE. Small class sizes (maximum 20) across the board and teachers who ‘go the extra mile’, with lots of clinics, email correspondence and one-to-ones during lunchtimes where necessary. ‘They really get to know us individually and what makes us tick– nobody slips through the net here,’ said one pupil. Setting from year 7 in maths and French, with fewer than 10 in some lower sets. More setting (English, science) from year 9 but these are very flexible and it’s not unheard of for girls to move from the bottom to top of six sets in the space of a year. Everyone does one modern language from year 7 (out of French, Spanish and German), then in year 8 they pick an additional one (Mandarin and Italian also on offer by this stage). Latin for all from year 7.

Parents say it’s a ‘good all-round school’ where their children get to ‘have a go at everything.’ ‘They are spectacular at finding each child’s strengths across the board and then relentlessly nurturing them,’ was a typical parent comment. Girls told us they don’t feel under pressure, even though homework levels ‘can feel very heavy in the upper years.’ History by far the strongest department, say pupils (‘they just make learning so fun and have so many great staff’), with sciences and maths coming to the fore at A level.

At A level, everyone starts off taking four out of 30 options (all the traditional, plus the likes of psychology, sociology, photography and creative arts). But those taking two A levels in photography or art are treated with as much support as mathematicians and scientists taking four and in any case, three-quarters of pupils drop an A level and pick up an EPQ, whose results are impressive. Handful of BTecs also available, for example in food and nutrition and performing arts. Plus a plethora of non-examined courses in subjects ranging from history of feminism to the more practical cooking at university. Good parent networks mean plenty of top business leaders come in to do one-off talks.

Excellent on SEN, according to parents, with individual lessons on offer (at extra cost) to girls needing support – around 60 in total when we visited, though none with EHCPs. All pupils screened on entry. Specialist EAL teaching for overseas pupils (again, charged as extra). ‘It helps that the school is so transparent and accessible,’ said one parent, who claimed her daughter had ‘become a different child – so happy and well supported.’ School claims to cater for the gifted and talented, although a parent said, ‘if I had an academically brilliant child – I mean, really at the top end – I have no doubt a more selective school would be better.’ Reporting system could be improved, say some parents – ‘they give them such good grades that you sometimes are led to believe they’re doing better than they are, so it throws you when the exam results come through.’

Games, options, the arts

Gymnastics, trampolining, dance, squash et al take place in a jawdropping double sports hall. Acres of playing fields, great for cross-country and adventure training, and all-weather pitch, with football, cricket and rugby most recently on the up. Trophies galore for the competitive, especially in hockey, netball (internationally), gymnastics and swimming (nationally). Big push on inclusivity to give the less naturally sporty a love of physical activity (including PE lessons for all including sixth formers and alternative options such as zumba, pilates and yoga on offer).

School has strong artsy feel, with some beautiful pieces peppered throughout the pristine corridors. There’s a well-used photography studio and dark room, drama studio and plenty of musical and theatrical productions throughout the year, many performed at the Watersmeet theatre in Rickmansworth. Great excitement about new performing arts faculty opening in 2019 with dance studio, drama studio, music areas and all-new recording studio. Musical opportunities abound, with 300 girls learning an instrument and concert orchestra, various ensembles and choirs, along with an emphasis on jazz groups.

Trips and tours of all sorts and vast array of extracurricular activities, including very popular DofE and cadets, means the school continues to buzz after lessons are over. Girls enthuse over chess and Chinese clubs as much as astronomy (in school’s own planetarium – there’s an astronomy GCSE on offer too) and taekwondo. Plenty of charitable works, with prefects nominating a charity for the school to support each year.

Boarders

Three boarding houses with most boarders in years 10 to 12. Around 40 per cent of boarders from overseas - Europe, the Far East, Russia and further afield. Also popular with Forces families.

Boarders are treated to an outing every Saturday (bowling, cinema, horse riding, theatre, London attractions etc), with occasional trips further afield, with recent examples including Brighton and to Harry Potter studios. Older girls allowed to London in groups for shopping and lunch and in years 12 and 13 to the cinema in the evenings. ‘It’s incredibly warm and welcoming, and they get the balance just right about how much independence you get,’ one girl told us.

We visited the most newly refurbished house which, like the rest of the school, was spacious, clean and well-equipped, as well as being cosy and homely with all the mod cons. Dorms with up to four girls per room in younger years; and up to two for sixth formers. Tidiness clearly not a priority for some, suggesting more lenience on that front than at some schools we visit. Light, bright and modern dining room, where boarders and day girls take all their meals, feels like a hub of chatter at lunch time, with girls seated at sociably round tables, enjoying freshly cooked meals which are, according to all, ‘outstanding’.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1788 to educate the children of masons who had fallen on hard times, the current 150 acre site, built in the 1930s, is the school’s fourth home. A vast campus, more akin to a redbrick university than a suburban girls’ school, with smart, identikit buildings surrounding two quadrangles (‘teeming with girls chatting in the summer term,’ said one), and the longest teaching corridor in Britain. Became an independent school, open to all, in 1978.

Great sixth form centre – comfortable common room, complete with black and pink sink-into sofas, and café area. Girls describe guidance at this stage of their education as ‘excellent’, with teachers giving up free time to help with UCAS applications, although some parents said they would like to see ‘more emphasis on Oxbridge applications.’ Spectacular rotunda library, one of the nicest we’ve seen, with plenty of space for quiet study. Atmosphere is serene (so much so that you sometimes wonder where all the girls are) and purposeful, but with a good dose of fun thrown in the mix, although girls told us there could be ‘more integration between the year groups.’

This is a forward-looking school, but with a strong sense of tradition - RMS is the only school in the country still to do ‘drill’: a spectacle of pinafored girls with pinned back hair performing something akin to synchronised swimming but without the water (they recently appeared on The One Show). Places in the squad are highly sought after, with dozens volunteering even for the reserves.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Often chosen by parents precisely for its pastoral focus, the school is regularly invited to talk about their tactics at national conferences. So what’s their secret? ‘Time,’ says the head - every teacher has enough time to support the individual girls, as well as to bring up issues, no matter how small, during weekly staff meetings. ‘She’s loving science but is worried about her French vocab test’ and ‘She’s had a fall-out with her friends but worked it all out now’ etc. Sixth formers are trained as peer mentors by the school counsellors, with year 9 girls taking on ‘big sister’ roles to new year 7s. School acutely aware that friendship groups formed in year 7 sometimes breaking up in year 8 or 9 and on the ball in how to deal with it, with specific friendship mediator on hand. ‘It means it rarely turns to bullying,’ girls told us.

Behaviour is excellent – girls put it down to mutual respect with staff. Parents add that school has never been afraid to ‘take a hard line’ when necessary and has even been known to call in police to educate girls on the outcomes of certain scenarios if they rear their ugly heads. School claims alcohol, drugs etc are ‘not an issue’; girls concur. On a more micro-level, girls say the school ‘isn’t strict, but there are a lot of rules, especially around things like uniform.’ Detentions aren’t as readily handed out as at some schools, though, with a whopping five black marks before one is handed out.

Pupils and parents

For over 200 years, this was a school for families facing hardship and although it’s now fee-paying, the culture seems to have stuck, with girls well-grounded and grateful to be there. Seemingly younger and fresher than their more streetwise grammar peers, RMS girls are nonetheless confident and articulate too. Ethnically reflective of the local area – mainly white, with a large British Indian contingent and sprinklings of other backgrounds.

Parents – an exceptionally sociable bunch - from all walks of life from the well-heeled to hard working, dual income, first time buyers. ‘But as a working mum, I’m still a minority,’ said one. Some expats and international parents, largely of overseas boarders. Many from across the Chilterns and Hertfordshire, with an increasing north London crowd. The school provides an excellent coach service from all these areas, with the London brigade able to take advantage of the shuttle bus from the tube station. Parents of girls at smaller prep schools reported a bit of a culture shock when their daughters joined this vast establishment, but added that they felt totally at home ‘after just a few weeks’.

Entrance

Increasingly selective (but nowhere near as much as some local schools), RMS is seen by more and more parents as a desirable option. Majority join at 11+ but some places are also available up to 14+. Online test in maths, English and reasoning. There’s also a creative writing exercise, group activity and group interview. School looks closely at report from current school as well as test results. Candidates for entry in later years sit tests in English, maths and non-verbal reasoning.

Around 170 girls compete for approximately 60 places. About a third come from state primaries; a further third from local preps (Maltman’s Green, Charlotte House and Orley Farm are main three feeders); and the final third from school's own prep Cadogan House (guaranteed entry, making for a mixed bag academically). Good sibling policy - a relief if younger ones aren’t as starry as big sister. Around 25 new places are available in year 12, with girls being selected on GCSE results and extracurricular achievements.

In line with its charitable ethos, school offers a limited number of assisted boarding places to disadvantaged children from London boroughs of Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets and (surprisingly) Norfolk. Head says that integration of these girls, and that of the mainly international boarders, is ‘fantastic’.

Exit

A small exodus - around 15-20 per cent - at 16, to local grammars, state schools and college. Majority of those who stay the course go on to university, with around 40 per cent to Russell Group; Leeds, Exeter, Nottingham Trent, Royal Holloway, Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham all popular. One to Cambridge, one to Melbourne, plus two vets and a dentist in 2018. Huge breadth of subjects studied – ‘and you get no less attention if you choose to study marine biology than law,’ said one pupil.

Money matters

Capital expenditure is underpinned by an endowment set up by the Masons and the school is a tenant of the site. Multitude of scholarships and exhibitions available at 11+ (academic, all-rounder, art, music and sport) and sixth form (performance arts added) typically offering 25 per cent discount on fees. Five per cent discount for siblings and 10 per cent for Forces families. Means-tested bursaries available.

Our view

Academically on the up, RMS is now a serious contender in the competitive local market, with top notch facilities also a pull for many families. Teachers adept at drawing the best out of everyone, whatever their abilities, and the emphasis on the arts and extracurricular means girls leave well-rounded and confident. Nurturing, but not to the point of being a bubble, this is a school that walks the walk when it comes to focusing on the individual. ‘I can tell you about my experience here, but it won’t be the same as anyone else’s and that’s the great thing about this school,’ was the kind of comment we heard time and time again from girls, although pushier parents might still prefer some of the more selective local schools.

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

At RMS we recognise that at some stage in their academic careers all pupils will require specific help of some kind. We endeavour to monitor the pupils throughout and offer a number of services to support their learning. Individual subject teachers, form staff and special needs staff liaise closely to address this area. During the first term of Year 7 we undertake a literacy-screening programme that assesses spelling, comprehension and word recognition. This indicates whether extra support is required and pupils may be asked to attend the Spelling or Reading Skills or, if specific help is necessary, one-to-one support sessions can be arranged with our special needs teacher. The school offers a programme of specialised help for those who experience dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties and parents are welcome to contact the SENCo if they have concerns in this or any other area. Gifted pupils benefit from a wide range of national competitions and participation in FORUM, a special programme for gifted children, in addition to differentiation within the daily curriculum. Specialist support can also be provided for pupils with English as an additional language. 09-09

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

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