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‘They’ve lit little fires in my daughter’s brain and she’s absolutely blossoming,’ said a parent, with others similarly delighted at the ‘encouraging and inspiring teaching’. If you sit in on lessons here, as we did, you tend to hear more from the girls than the teachers – interactivity at its best. Teaching is practical too – girls can expect to re-enact the Battle of Hastings in the school field or be handed a bowl of beads in chemistry to help visualise the concepts of how electrons are arranged in atoms. ‘Sport is probably not what the school is known for, but they are very good at...

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What the school says...

Shrewsbury High School is widely regarded as one of the UKs leading independent schools and we are proud of the special blend of academic excellence, all round opportunity and pastoral care that we offer. Our friendly, stimulating environment enables all pupils, whatever their talents or interests, to have the opportunity to reach their full potential whether this be at the junior or senior level.

One of the highest achieving schools in the country Shrewsbury High School was recently ranked first place in Shropshire in the Independent School Councils league table for GCSE points scored. However, we value our broader education with equal importance. We aim to ensure that our extracurricular provision at junior, senior and sixth form level is of the very highest of standards, from Music and the Performing Arts through to Sport and beyond. We aim to nurture each student academically and personally through highly skilled teaching in a happy, supportive and well equipped environment.

Shrewsbury High educates girls from age 3 to 18 and boys from 3 to 13. The best way to catch the spirit of Shrewsbury High and experience the warmth and enthusiasm of our teaching staff and pupils is to come and visit so please do not hesitate to contact us.
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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.

Rowing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since September 2018, Jo Sharrock (40s), previously deputy head pastoral at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School in Bristol. History degree from Leeds. ‘All anyone ever asks you when you do a history degree is, “Are you going into teaching, then?” “No!” I’d tell them.’ Easy to see why she chuckles at the irony from her (very swish) headteacher’s office now, though to be fair she did try her hand in the finance industry for several years first, including HSBC, ABN AMRO, NatWest Stockbrokers and Goldman Sachs before getting out because, ‘quite simply, I didn’t enjoy it.’ Did TEFL course ‘because I fancied to go overseas’ which led to ‘epiphany moment’. Spent 14 years at QEH, teaching history and politics and taking on various leadership roles, including becoming the school's first female deputy head.

Smiley, elegant, astute and worldly. Positive affirmation quotes roll off the tongue – you could imagine much of what she says on distressed wooden signs with swirly writing: ‘Every day is different!’, ‘Everything is still possible for the young!’ ‘I learn something new every day!’ etc. But there’s no lack of sincerity – she means every word. ‘The girls think she’s really cool and the parents think she’s a fantastic role model,’ said a parent, a statement with which everyone we spoke to wholeheartedly agreed. ‘She’s in touch with teenage girls and the wider issues they face – she understands them,’ we heard. ‘She’s an amazing orator – her assemblies are particularly rousing.’ ‘Very much a people person.’ ‘Soft and gentle but with a core of steel – perfect for the school.’ One parent recalled how she was chatting to her at an open day ‘when three or four students came over and I noticed how she treated each one differently – she knew them individually and how best to respond accordingly, and it really stayed with me.’ Teaches a little – we sensed she would do more if she had the time.

Lives a half-hour’s drive away with her husband in a rural spot she moved to for the job, having grown up in south east London, followed by 14 years in Bristol in her last role. Plenty of opportunity, then, for outdoor pursuits and adventure, especially hiking, climbing, swimming and skiing. She has travelled extensively in Africa, Australasia, Europe and the Americas and is a qualified mountain leader and a DofE assessor.

Entrance

Entrance at 11+ and 13+ by examination in verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and quantitative skills. Not overly selective: ‘Some girls ace one area but not another – perhaps the maths, creative writing or verbal reasoning – and we can work with that,’ says head. Sixth form applicants (about 10 join a year from other schools) are expected to achieve a minimum of six grade 6s at GCSE with at least 6s in A level subjects.

Exit

Up to a third leaves for sixth form elsewhere – for co-education, boarding, a change – but on the whole the majority (and more and more each year) stays. Popular destinations include Cardiff, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol and Durham. Two to Oxbridge in 2020. School is proud of the wide range of subjects – classics, anthropology, management, psychology and engineering – and is keen to celebrate their engineering degree apprentices and art foundation students as much as their medics (three in 2020). ‘There’s no narrow path,’ says school.

Latest results

In 2020, 68 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 46 per cent A*/A at A level (78 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 54 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 46 per cent A*/A at A level (79 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

‘They’ve lit little fires in my daughter’s brain and she’s absolutely blossoming,’ said a parent, with others similarly delighted at the ‘encouraging and inspiring teaching’. More a case of guiding the girls than spoon feeding them, with an enticing hook at the start of every lesson that the teacher then uses to ignite those flames. If you sit in on lessons here, as we did, you tend to hear more from the girls than the teachers – interactivity at its best. Teaching is practical too – girls can expect to re-enact the Battle of Hastings in the school field or be handed a bowl of beads in chemistry to help visualise the concepts of how electrons are arranged in atoms.

Because all teachers take clubs and/or run sports teams, they know the girls well and ultimately what makes them tick. ‘What struck me most when I first looked round the school were the incredibly close relationships between teachers and pupils – they know and like each other,’ says head – the very reason, according to parents, that the school has managed the pandemic so well: ‘The girls don’t mind their teachers being in their living rooms.’ School’s ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ approach meant they were on the ball digitally too – ‘I’d go so far as to say we’ve had a digital revolution,’ says head (although she’s not too proud to talk us through the challenges they’ve faced, calling it ‘the best and worst of times’).

Middle-of-the-road students won’t feel lost here – this is a school where, for many, getting a B will be a significant achievement, though there’s suitable stretch for those at the top end too. ‘One girl’s best will be different to another’s and they constantly make that clear,’ a parent told us. Class sizes average 20, with a maximum of 22, though that drops the further up the school you go and they’re not averse to running an A level for one student. School has largely moved away from setting to avoid the ‘I’m in the bottom set’ mentality becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (‘We get a lot of girls coming in saying, “I’m not very good at X”’) though there is some (‘very fluid’) setting in maths and English from year 8. Girls are introduced to a smorgasbord of languages from the off – French, German, Spanish and Latin (with ancient Greek as optional) with the breadth seen as a way of enabling them to make more informed decisions when they drop down to two plus Latin in year 8. No insistence that a language be one of the nine GCSEs that girls take, although it’s strongly encouraged. Majority take triple science. RS very popular, as is business and art. From September DT and food tech will also be available. Latin and music are the shining stars on results day – often 100 per cent 9s. At A level – when most girls do three plus an EPQ – maths and biology are the most popular, with psychology a close second. Numbers for art and design are on a steep incline (as a result this subject has now been added at GCSE).

If you spot a mass exhalation of air and shoulders dropping like dominoes on your tour of the school, it probably means it’s time for ‘period X’ on a Wednesday afternoon – an enrichment initiative introduced by the head that centres around wellbeing and creativity, with options including yoga, interview skills and mindfulness. Great way to press re-start mid-week, reckon girls.

Learning support and SEN

Two SENCos (one for juniors, one for seniors) work with a team of teaching assistants with the ‘would you teach a fish to climb a tree?’ model of thinking (for those that aren’t familiar with the book, it’s about looking at youngsters with ADHD, ASD, OCD etc as learning in a different way, not a deficient way – we approve!). Mixture of support provided both inside and outside the classroom according to each child’s need at no extra cost. Currently one EHCP and they also cater for children who are eg profoundly deaf.

The arts and extracurricular

Music department pulls in both performers and audiences, with girls flocking to the well-staffed music school that has its very own house on campus. Loads of encouragement for the choirs, orchestra, ensembles and soloists. Everything from very traditional choral numbers right through to open mic nights to cater for all tastes. A pop-up opera for the community was one of the last school events before lockdown, and staff also run an outreach youth choir in the local community. The nearby St Chad’s church provides a popular performance area in the round, not to mention Shrewsbury Abbey with its fabulous acoustics. High numbers of girls learn instruments ranging from harp to drums with peripatetic teachers.

Drama is extremely active. ‘It’s one of the first things prospective girls ask about, if not their parents,’ reports the head. There’s a small onsite theatre, while for bigger performances – including the annual razzle-dazzle musical - the girls use the local Theatre Severn. The winter dance show is popular and there’s good uptake of drama, as well as music, at A level.

We saw an excellent art exhibition and met talented, enthusiastic and happy artists. Visiting artists come in to do talks, workshops etc. The annual exhibition at Shrewsbury art gallery attracts not just parents but the general public. Sixth formers love the cosy loft area – reminiscent of a Parisian scene, what with all the coffee cups, oil paints and paintbrushes lying around. School is keen not to focus solely on fine art and supports a mix of media including photography, textiles, print and digital, among others.

Popular clubs include debating and Model UN and eco-club has been doing lots of worthy work lately; more creative options include craft and cookery clubs (the latter had just done a bake-off when we last reviewed). DofE from year 9.

Sport

‘Sport is probably not what the school is known for, but they are very good at netball,’ said parent. Gymnastics, hockey and tennis also get regular wins at county level and occasionally national. Football and cricket are emerging. Cross-country and athletics are popular in the summer, with optional activities also stretching to equestrian. Naturally, given school's riparian location, rowing is also on offer. ‘They are open to new and interesting sports if you suggest them,’ reckoned a parent, while another praised the inclusivity – ‘My daughter plays football and you get the impression that even if they were the worst team ever, they’d carry it on as long as they love it – it’s about team building and making it fun.’ Astro and field onsite, along with fantastic sports centre, while additional courts are a three-minute stroll down the lane along the river.

Ethos and heritage

A GDST school which, since its foundation in 1885, has been a distinguished feature of Shropshire education. Located on the river front, the school is literally built into the fabric of the town walls – they even have their own tower. Wandering around the school, lost in the warren of buildings – some old and institutional, others plate glassed and modern – we were struck by the open friendliness of the girls, the smiling faces, the courteous offers of help. This feels like happiness and those to whom we spoke did not deny it. ‘It’s good fun here. The days are packed.’ Visitors are often surprised by the sheer amount of space, both inside and out – there’s room enough, in fact, for the junior school to be returning to its roots on the same campus in September 2021. ‘Some parts could do with renovating and I know they have plans, but it’s not a school for families after new and shiny facilities everywhere you look,’ said a parent.

Alumnae include Mary Beard (classicist), Dr Alice Bunn (international director, UK space agency), Emma Jones (founder Enterprise Nation), Kate Phillips (BBC entertainment controller) and Amy Williams (founder of ethical marketing company Good-Loop).

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

A very close-knit community, with every parent we spoke to attracted by the ‘small size’ of the school. Wellbeing is at the heart of everything – ‘You do better if you feel better,’ says head (another distressed wooden sign opportunity). Girls report feeling safe and able to turn to the tutors, heads of year, (part-time) school counsellor, school nurse etc. Good mental health is seen as paramount, with a proactive approach to discussing uncomfortable subjects like bullying, eating disorders and self-harm in eg period X, assemblies and tutor time. ‘They have been amazing pastorally during the pandemic too,’ said a parent – ‘giving them time off their computers, keeping things fun, making sure everyone knew they had someone to talk to, and so on.’ Girls are encouraged and reminded to keep an eye on their own emotional barometer so they can look after themselves first and foremost. All staff are trained in mental health first aid, with senior staff having done the longer, more intensive courses. ‘I’ve known of girls leaving because they don’t get on with other girls but some of them wind up coming back,’ said one parent.

Light touch discipline – more a case of mutual respect than old-fashioned obedience, though girls know the boundaries and can expect short sharp detentions if they cross them. Only one temporary exclusion in the current head’s time, though, and no permanent ones. Rewards include commendations and certificates.

Pupils and parents

Students appear confident, kind and friendly. We wondered if they might be ultra-compliant – but, no, the school encourages them to find their own voice and hold their own. Parents mainly middle-class professionals (especially medics), along with lots of entrepreneurs and farmers – a good Shropshire mix. The catchment area is large, girls travel up to an hour to get here, with a bus service from Church Stretton, Ludlow, Oswestry, Bridgnorth, Ellesmere, Welshpool – though most still hail from Shrewsbury itself, and these parents appreciate the opportunity for their daughters to walk home with friends after school. Increasingly, families move out of London for the creative curriculum. ‘Not as socially elite as the other local independents,’ said a parent – ‘and all the nicer for it.’ Parents are a sociable bunch, they told us – ‘I’ve got a lot of friends through the school, which has been lovely,’ said one. Mainly white British, reflective of the area.

Money matters

Academic, sport, music, art and drama scholarships available at 11+, 13+, with additional sixth form scholarships. These cover between five and 15 per cent of fees. GDST bursary scheme available, covering up to 100 per cent of fees.

The last word

Parents say this small, friendly and happy school has given their daughters wings to fly, and we can see why and how. Fresh, exciting and buzzy, yet steeped in history. We loved 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

Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
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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