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  • Walthamstow Hall Junior
    Bradbourne Park Road
    Sevenoaks
    Kent
    TN13 3LD
  • Head: Mrs Diane Wood
  • T 01732 453815
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.walthamstow-hall.co.uk
  • A mainstream independent school for girls aged from 3 to 11 with a linked senior school.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Kent
  • Pupils: 142
  • Religion: Christian Inter-denominational
  • Fees: £12,135 - £15,300 pa
  • Open days: We invite parents to arrange an individual visit at a time which best suits them.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Linked schools: Walthamstow Hall Senior

What says..

Emphasis on developing independent thinking and study skills, with girls encouraged to think and find out for themselves. Doing your best considered as important as being the best, with teachers (some of whom attended the school themselves) described by children as ‘fun’ and ‘nice’. Parents say the school is good at seeing the girls as individuals which ‘really brings them out of themselves’. They ‘cater to different abilities very well within the same classroom’. Lots of cheerful art work about the place and three lessons a week with specialist teaching from year 3. Own kiln for pottery and carpentry also offered and we saw some fabulous nursery pop-up books in the making. However, girls said it can be...

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What the school says...

Walthamstow Hall Junior School provides a broad and rich education to foster enquiring minds, independence, confidence and respect for others.

We aim to enable each girl to achieve her potential and are proud of our academic standards, caring ethos, wide range of opportunities and first-class facilities. High expectations in every sense enable exceptional results be achieved in all areas. There is both hard work and lots of fun in a positive environment which is happy and relaxed with a real sense of purpose.

From Reception upwards pupils benefit from being in optimum sized classes. This guarantees individual attention throughout with obvious benefits including a seamless and highly effective preparation for Senior School Entrance Exams with out the need for last minute cramming.
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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head of the Junior School

Since 2013, Diane Wood BSc. Educated at Manchester High School for Girls and the University of Durham, where she stayed on to complete PGCE in primary education after studying psychology (plan A was to become an educational psychologist but she fell in love with teaching first). Also has certificate in education from Oxford Brookes University. After teaching in state schools in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire, she moved to the independent sector, spending more than a decade in two GDST schools - Sheffield High School for Girls and then Sydenham High School in London where she was a senior teacher.

Warm and welcoming, with a maternal demeanour, she is described by the girls as ‘kind’, ‘smiley’ and ‘funny’. Parents say she is ‘swift to act on issues we raise’ but while they agree she’s ‘nice and friendly’ and ‘chatty when you see her’, there are some grumbles that ‘you don’t hear much about her vision for the school – it’s just not communicated with parents’. We found a commonly expressed desire for stronger leadership, although one parent felt that ‘part of the problem is that she clearly isn’t natural at public speaking, but when you meet her on a more personal level, she is much more thoughtful and intelligent about what she wants for the school.’

Lives on site and has three daughters, one of whom recently graduated from university, the other two at Wally Hall.

Stephanie Ferro is overall headmistress of both senior and junior schools.

Entrance

Non-selective. Most children join in the nursery and entrance is via an informal chat with the parents and a one hour taster session for the children to make sure they are ready to start school. Older girls attend a taster day when their English, maths and social skills are assessed.

Exit

About 50-60 per cent move on to the senior school each year, with all girls taking the same entrance tests in maths and English as external applicants – but some parents feel the process could be smoother. ‘They talk about wanting to make it feel more like one school - which wasn’t the message before and is widely welcomed - but there remains frustration among parents because you never really know if your daughter is likely to make it’, said one. ‘Our daughter is in year 5 and we’re on complete tenterhooks because they won’t commit to her giving a place.’ ‘They seem to like to keep parents on their toes and even when they told us it was all fine, they weren’t prepared to put it in writing.’ And so on. School says it’s ‘really aware of this perception’ and is ‘working very hard to allay this fear’, including every year 5 parent meeting the school head to discuss their daughter’s future. Alternatives include mainly grammars and independent schools (‘co-ed and flexi-boarding is a pull for some parents,’ says school) including Sevenoaks, Weal of Kent Grammar, Tonbridge Grammar, Caterham, Kent College, Pembury, St. Michael’s Prep and Woldingham. Girls are well prepared for all entrance exams including the Kent Test. Eight scholarships in 2019.

Our view

Down a quiet, residential road on the edge of Sevenoaks in a large, light and comfortable Edwardian house with many additions – all sympathetically done, with parents and pupils alike warming to the ‘homely feel’. Fresh paint and everything in good condition and an atmosphere of ordered calm and purpose, although never at the expense of merriment - the excitement of our guides wanting to show off every nook and cranny from the hopscotch markings in the playground to the STEM puzzles in the science lab was palpable. Lots of silverware displayed in the hall with cups for everything – ‘It would be amazing to get the ballet one,’ mused one girl, nose pushed against the glass.

Moved here from a house in the grounds of the senior school in 1992 and the five-minute (if that) drive between the two means they still get all the benefits of a ‘big sister’ up the road, with girls using senior facilities including the Ship Theatre, indoor pool, sports hall, dance studio and library, among others. That said, the junior school has a separate identity and is very much a self-contained unit with good facilities, and senior girls told us they have ‘little if any’ contact with juniors (watch this space, though as head says that’s set to change, with plans afoot for reading and mentoring). Lots of outdoor space including two outside courts (year 6 bikeability course in full swing during our visit – ‘I can’t wait until I’m in year 6,’ said one girl, literally jumping up and down), the popular Dell with bushes for making dens (which we saw girls sprint to at breaktime) and various playgrounds including a wooden ship play structure and sensory garden. Plus, there’s a small school field – ‘shame it’s not bigger but it is what it is,’ said a parent. Forest school well-liked by the girls, but there’s disappointment they can’t continue it past year 3. Well-equipped science lab, complete with Larry the skeleton and specialist science teacher. Library fine but could be more inspiring. Latest additions include a new purpose-built dining hall (food is fabulous) and new early years classroom.

Parents say the school is good at seeing the girls as individuals which ‘really brings them out of themselves’. They ‘cater to different abilities very well within the same classroom’ and ‘really get your child – they know exactly what makes our daughter tick’, we were told. Specialist teaching in sport, music, French and IT from nursery, with other subjects added later on, though form teachers remain the main educator throughout. Emphasis on developing independent thinking and study skills, with girls encouraged to think and find out for themselves. Doing your best considered as important as being the best, with teachers (some of whom attended the school themselves) described by children as ‘fun’ and ‘nice’. Classes split into two forms from year 3 – maximum of 20 each, though tend to be nearer 17/18. Setting in English from year 3 and maths from year 4. iPads and laptops available, but girls said ‘we barely use them’; computing taught in a dedicated ICT suite.

Recent academic scholarships have been awarded to the senior school, Sevenoaks, Benenden, Woldingham and Caterham. Individual education programmes are offered for the gifted and talented and SEN treatment for the 20-25 girls who need it (mainly mild dyslexia and extra help with maths) includes both in-classroom support and small group work (which we saw in full flow) and one-to-ones where needed. ‘An awful lot of work was needed to persuade my daughter to try her hardest but she’s on a roll now,’ said one, while another told us, ‘my daughter gets extra reading help nearly every day - wonderful’. Half-termly ‘feature days’ focus on themes such as creativity and curiosity to excite and motivate the girls, with outside speakers brought in eg a professional mountaineer to talk about pushing yourself and taking considered risks.

Lots of cheerful art work about the place and three lessons a week with specialist teaching from year 3. Own kiln for pottery and carpentry also offered and we saw some fabulous nursery pop-up books in the making. However, girls said it can be on the prescriptive, painting-by-numbers side, reeling off examples of things they’d like to have gone off piste with ‘to see if it works’ or ‘make it different from everyone else’s’ but ‘that’s not allowed’. A parent told us, ‘I see the same pieces of pottery and other artwork coming home every year – sometimes it feels as though it’s autumn term week three so we’re doing this, and that can happen in other subjects too which is a shame.’ But school says a new staff member, joining shortly, should change this.

Many girls learn a musical instrument (often two) in the dedicated music centre behind the black and white piano themed fence and everyone does class music right the way through the school. There are three choirs but no orchestra. Drama is taught by a specialist teacher from year 3, with plentiful performances kicking off with the likes of harvest festival leading up to the annual leavers’ play. Many girls do Trinity drama. ‘The school really helps the girls with public speaking skills,’ said a parent.

‘Good and lots of it’ is the general consensus about sport, which includes pop-lacrosse, a gentler version of the game played in the senior school, also netball, tennis, rounders, cricket and athletics (though girls said they’d like to add football to the mix – currently only a club). Swimming particularly strong and a number of girls take part in national and county championships. While most parents describe the sport as inclusive, we did encounter a few moans and groans that ‘they need to do more try-outs for the sports instead of picking the same girls for everything’. Ballet up to year 3, with an option to continue after that as part of the 60 or so clubs; chess is particularly popular, with regular friendly matches arranged with other schools. Cookery club in the purpose-built mini-kitchen always oversubscribed. One of our guides did at least one club every day.

Leadership roles changed termly so that every girl gets some responsibility. Year 6 girls run the library overseen by a librarian. Four houses, all named after female authors, with plenty of friendly competition in music, sport, swimming etc; each house chooses a charity to support.
Parents (most of whom hail from 15 minutes away max) have high expectations and enjoy the social aspect, making full use of the thriving parents' association. Wraparound care from 7.15 to 6pm taken up by most at one point or another (if only that they’re running late).

Communications from school on the up but still room for improvement, say parents. Girls are a gregarious bunch – bright sparks with no hint of coyness, and some dominant characters in the mix; ‘my daughter will talk to any adult with confidence, thanks to that school,’ said one parent. Clear ambassadors for the school, but able to see beyond the bubble of Wally – careers in PR await. In this small school, all the girls know each other and have been known to play whole-school games at breaktime – ‘How Wally is that!’ beams the head, although one parent said you do get ‘some cattiness’ and ‘I think the school could be more proactive in stopping it’. Bad behaviour minimal – rarely anything more than a stern look needed. House points awarded for trying your best and good manners.

A caring and nurturing school where effort is celebrated and where learning is fun. The kind of school that girls run into every morning and leave ‘as the best version of themselves – not someone else’s version of what they should be,’ as one parent put it.

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
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 Y
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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