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When the school was set up the aim was for girls to follow in their parents' footsteps and become missionaries; they needed to be adventurous, resourceful and brave and much of this spirit lives on. Girls are helped to develop ‘smart’ study habits so they can take part in all aspects of school life – music, sport, drama, art etc - and have an astonishing capacity for juggling time and taking things on. ‘High expectations academically’, say girls, with plenty of debate, discussion and interaction from early on – ‘but you don’t...

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What the school says...

Walthamstow Hall educates girls with academic potential to lead confident, challenging and fulfilling lives at school and beyond. The school is a thriving, forward-looking community built on a solid foundation and specialising in educating girls to the highest standard since 1838. Respect for others, a strong sense of community and a pride that comes from sharing a great tradition make Walthamstow Hall an environment in which each girl can flourish, discover and develop her talents and make lifelong friendships. Our students are keen to 'have a go' in all areas of life and as well as succeeding academically often excel in their many extra-curricular interests and activities.

Inspiring teaching, wonderful facilities and the close partnerships which exist between parents, staff and girls lie at the heart of our success.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year 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.


Unusual sports

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since January 2018, Stephanie Ferro, most recently senior assistant head at Lady Eleanor Holles. Degree in ancient and modern history from Oxford, PGCE in classics and history from St Mary's Twickenham, and a masters in classics from UCL. A gap year as a youth worker in Essex after her Oxford degree inspired her to train as a teacher, a decision confirmed from her first lesson on teaching practice where she discovered the truth of the adage, ‘Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.’ She has taught in independent girls' schools for the past 25 years, with posts including head of sixth form at Tormead, deputy head pastoral at Wimbledon High and head of Redland High (now Redmaids’ High).

Says the pull of Wally Hall, as it’s affectionately and universally known as, was fivefold – her commitment to the concept of an all-through school (she’s head of the junior school too) and of all-girls education (‘it means you don’t get the gender stereotypes’), plus the missionary foundation (‘it’s in the DNA of the school to be outward looking’). Then there’s the small size of the school (‘there’s plenty of lip service given to “we know every child in the school” but with 420 pupils, this is truly a Ronseal school in that sense’) and finally, leafy Sevenoaks (she lives onsite during the week and it’s back to even leafier Surrey at the weekends).

A petite and quietly spoken woman, she is impressively economical with words - as one parent says, ‘everything she does say is on-point and matters’. Behind the gentle exterior is a plain-speaking, no-nonsense approach which, packaged with her warm smile and good dose of humour, has clearly won over parents who rave about their ‘proper headmistress’. ‘She’s trying to reaffirm the traditional values of the school and making girls pay more attention to the detail and I think it’s great,’ said one. Others told us ‘she came in and took charge and has been completely open with parents about her vision and path’ and ‘she really wants to empower the girls, giving them everything they need for the changing workforce in the 21st century’. Parents say she’s ‘changed the whole feel of the school’, reporting ‘more energy’ and ‘a renewed purpose’. Perhaps not the most visible of heads, though, with girls we met saying she’s ‘mainly behind the scenes’ (although she does teach year 7) and they weren’t exactly thrilled about her ban on both short skirts and ‘stricter ways’ although they give her thumbs up for her ‘efficiency’ and ‘wit’. Passionate about the girls’ outcomes; speaks of them ‘coming in like puppies (eager, enthusiastic and energetic) and leaving like cats (independent, full of initiative, young women of integrity)’.

Italy is her great love – she is currently learning the language and travels there regularly. Manages two gym visits in the week and parkruns at weekends.


Entrance at 11+, 13+ and 16+. Not super selective. At 11+, interview with headmistress, head’s report from the pupil’s current school and written papers in maths and English in the autumn term a year before entry. At 13+ interview with headmistress, head’s report from the pupil’s current school and candidates sit either general entrance papers (in maths, English and science) or academic scholarship papers (in maths, English, biology, chemistry, physics and another chosen subject). In order to accommodate demand from local co-ed preps, the year 9 entry point has now been formalised, adding an additional form; five to 10 girls join at this stage. Entry into sixth form via interview, school report and a minimum of seven GCSES at 9-6 with 9-7s in the subjects they wish to study.

Around 30 per cent of year 7s have come up from the junior school but have to pass the same test as everyone else. Otherwise from a range of local state primaries and prep schools. About 10 girls join sixth form each year from other local girls' independent schools and grammars, often because of the wide combination of subjects available.

For Sept 2021 entry, the school has introduced deferred entry – girls will undergo the entry process in year 6 and a deferred entry place for year 9 will be offered at that stage. Pupils applying for academic, music, drama and art scholarships will be invited back in year 8 to take part in the scholarship process.


About 13 per cent leave after GCSE, mainly to co-ed, boarding schools or for IB – most, if not all, replaced by external students from local grammars and independents. Popular degree subjects include medicine (one vet in 2020), maths, modern foreign languages, various sciences and business and economics related courses. Highly competitive art schools very much on the radar, while those studying more academic subjects make a beeline for Exeter, Bath and Bristol, among others, with around a couple each year to Oxbridge (none in 2019 or 2020 though). Degree apprenticeships on the up – Deloitte and IBM are recent destinations.

Latest results

In 2020, 87 per cent 9/7 at GCSE; 59 pe cent A*/A at A level/Pre-U (87 per cent A*/B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 79 per cent 9/7 at GCSE; 56 per cent A*/A at A level/Pre-U (80 per cent A*/B).

Teaching and learning

Girls are helped to develop ‘smart’ study habits so they can take part in all aspects of school life – music, sport, drama, art etc - and have an astonishing capacity for juggling time and taking things on, taking 17 subjects in first year including Latin, French and DT, plus being encouraged to (and most do) take at least three clubs a week from the off. Creative textiles and a second foreign language (girls choose from German or Spanish – with more time now provided for languages, countering the national trend) added in second year. Setting only in maths from the January of year 7. Sciences taught separately from the beginning.

‘The teachers light up when you ask them why they chose their subject. They absolutely love what they teach, so even if your daughter isn’t keen on the subject that can’t help but rub off on them,’ a parent told us. Others think the school’s main selling point is that it ‘doesn’t test them to death, but has enough assessments to keep the girls on their toes’ and that ‘the girls get personalised learning so they never slip off the radar and are constantly challenged but never put under undue pressure’.

Most do 10 GCSEs and all take RS early at end of year 10 with the majority achieving top marks. IGCSE in just over half of all subjects and Cambridge Pre-U in economics, philosophy and theology and music. In most cases girls can do the combination of subjects they want with a few ‘twilight’ GCSEs offered as extra subjects after school from 4.30-6pm for subjects that won’t fit into the curriculum (though less than in the past due to after-school clubs and rehearsals). Most popular GCSEs include drama, geography and history, with best grades in English, maths, sciences, history, music and drama. In sixth form, three A levels (which are taught in small seminar-type groups similar to university) is the norm and around a quarter do EPQ. Most popular are English, sciences, economics and business studies – which also boast the best results. Some girls would like ‘more subjects – the less traditional ones’; school points out it does offer classical civilisation and sociology with food tech a new introduction, and considering psychology and photography. New careers adviser has shaken things up, say girls, with lots of help with UCAS forms also from tutors and other sixth form staff.

‘High expectations academically’, say girls, with plenty of debate, discussion and interaction from early on – ‘but you don’t feel pressured to get higher grades than are within your natural ability’. New ‘Q’ lessons ‘focus on the likes of library skills, critical thinking and collaboration to underpin the academic subjects’. Homework levels on the high side ‘but manageable’ and class sizes are maximum of 20, occasionally stretched to 22. Well-stocked and well-used library with panoramic views.

Learning support and SEN

For SEN (which costs £200 a term), school believes in the ‘huge benefits of the extraction model’ so girls with mild to moderate learning needs can expect help one-to-one help.

The arts and extracurricular

‘I must tell you I thought you were amazing in the school play,’ we overheard a sixth former tell a younger girl, who lapped up the compliment – reflective the supportive ethos this schools seems to exude at every turn. And it’s most likely true – the thespian talent is notable; we could barely tear ourselves away from the A level practice play we started to watch in The Ship – their pride-and-joy theatre in-the-round. All girls in year 7 to 9 do drama (as well as music and art) and about half take Trinity drama classes – but well beyond that, most girls remain involved, if not on stage then with backstage, costumes (sometimes borrowed from RSC), music or lighting for the big shows, of which there are several every year (most recently My Fair Lady and A Midsummer Night’s Dream). ‘You don’t have to be showy to be a contributor – it’s all about teamwork.’

Well-equipped art studio, with different zones for art, print making, 3D design and textiles, with resources galore and separate DT area – but a shame their latest art studio (for years 7 and 8) is located at the other end of the school. Prepare to drool over the exhibitions, particularly the A level work – no wonder increasing numbers of universities let Wally girls skip their art foundation year; this is the kind of stuff we’d gladly hang on our living room walls (and seriously thought about making an offer for the trio of Constable-inspired paintings in the head’s office – the student in question is going on to study architecture). There’s no cookie cutting approach here – we saw intricate lacework rubbing shoulders with thought-provoking work on plastics and the environment (‘they really bring their personalities alive in their work,’ said one parent).

Also likely to take your breath away is the music, now housed in flashy new department with practice rooms that ‘can talk to each other – great for music collaborations’. ‘The next time we hear her play, I think we’ll have to pay a lot of money,’ said the head of one talented student. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll never hear a girl say ‘Oh, I’m not musical so I don’t get involved’ here – if she has even an iota of musical interest, she may find herself lured into one of the four choirs, several orchestras or ensembles (‘You think it, we’ll have it and if we don’t, we can make it happen,’ said inspirational director of music, who replaced the wind band with clarinet quartet to suit current cohort). ‘Whatever their interest – pop, highbrow classical or theatrical - there are opportunities and the girls really enjoy it because they’re encouraged to take part for taking part’s sake,’ said one parent. Even the teachers get stuck in, with the Manic Street Teachers preparing to play at the annual pop concert when we visited. Big performances at least twice a term and music can be studied at Cambridge Pre-U in the sixth form.


Sport popular - key is ensuring it’s fun to help build a life-long love of physical activity (‘healthy body, healthy mind’ is one of the head’s mantras) as well as giving the elite a chance to shine (although girls told us they’d like to ‘see sporting achievements celebrated more in assemblies as much as music, drama and art’). Gymnastics, squash, pilates and judo are available for those who don’t like team games, while swimming, badminton, cross-country, lacrosse and netball are all competed at a national level (cross-country is really strong with an active running club making the most of running through the parkland of Knole House next door). Curling and badminton on offer more recently. The fitness gym and dance studio are popular with the older girls and there’s a terrific sports hall, dedicated gymnastics hall and large indoor swimming pool, although the town centre location means sports field could be bigger (this is supplemented by Astroturf in neighbouring park). PE offered as an A level. Inter-house sport, as well as inter-house music and drama festivals – all girls take part and all are ‘highlights on the calendar’, said our guide.

Ethos and heritage

One of the oldest girls’ schools in the country, it was founded in 1838 in Walthamstow as a school and home for the daughters of missionaries; moved to its present arts and crafts building in Sevenoaks in 1882. ‘Built on prayer with money raised from church collections’, it became the girls’ grammar school under the direct grant system and is now a fully independent selective girls’ school. Much building and refurbishment, mainly from fee income, in the last 10 years, most recently a super new sixth form centre including extra science and technology areas plus IT hub. Many parents attracted by the fact that this is a small school although, as one observed, ‘You’re a big fish in a small pond – that isn’t the right fit for everyone’.

Alumnae include Beverley Hunt, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College, London and founder of the charity Life Blood, also playwright and triathlete; Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed; Julia Streets, entrepreneur, broadcaster and comedian; Rowan Pelling, newspaper columnist and broadcaster.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

School pays close attention both overtly and covertly, say parents. ‘Not Big Brother style – just in the sense of keeping an eye out for their well-being,’ said one, while another told us of ‘a phone call saying, “your daughter isn’t eating lunch”. I wasn’t worried, but very grateful that they’d noticed.’ Along with form tutors and pastoral assistants (who function like heads of year), there are also peer mentors and buddies, plus a part-time visiting counsellor and a growing emphasis on mindfulness. The house system (six in total) means different year groups get to know each other and all sixth formers get leadership opportunities, with equal weight given to votes from staff and students at prefect and house captain elections. Girls review their own progress and set themselves targets and there is plenty of praise and recognition. Few instances of poor behaviour – ‘if girls are inspired and motivated, they want to learn,’ says school; parents say ‘the rules are crystal clear, even more so under current head’.

Firm rules on bullying are ‘effective’, say girls, although we did hear reports of ‘some inevitable cliques’ and that ‘girls can have problems finding the pecking order in some years, but it seems to sort itself out’; Girls on Board - a new initiative helping girls to navigate their way through the complex dynamics of female friendships – helps, say girls, whose views are sought on whole school matters including food (which all girls seem to love – ‘even the bread is freshly baked inhouse – it comes out warm,’ one enthused). Student/staff relations seem good – they even invite their teachers to the leavers’ ball. No Saturday school but girls often come in for matches, rehearsals, activities and Duke of Edinburgh. Assemblies (called prayers, although girls say it ‘isn’t a particularly religious school’) three times a week, also with hymn. Some parents we spoke to felt they could be more proactive on mental health – ‘they do fantastic talks and my daughter mentors younger ones, but I still think they could do more’.

Pupils and parents

Broad mix of parents including high flying City types, local business people, medics and members of the clergy. Vast majority of faces are Caucasian, but that’s Sevenoaks for you, and school is at pains to point out the range of international surnames, though EAL numbers are negligible. When the school was set up the aim was for girls to follow in their parents' footsteps and become missionaries; they needed to be adventurous, resourceful and brave and much of this spirit lives on. In fact, the school’s emblem is a ship sailing on the high seas, and at the end of their time here the girls take part in a special ‘setting sail service’ when they hand over their prefects' badges to the year below.

We found girls grounded, chatty, outward looking and with a strong sense of purpose and of community. Almost all girls in sixth form take part in voluntary service – nothing compulsory – many help with reading in local primary schools, working in charity shops and riding for the disabled and help out at the local old people’s home (which was founded and is run by old girls). Girls not frightened to succeed in front of each other. They tend to keep in touch and many old girls send their daughters here – ‘my grandmother came here,’ said our guide. Some indomitable campaigners amongst the old girls, who are often leaders in their field.

Money matters

About 10 per cent of girls on some sort of bursary. Various financial awards including the Founder's Bursary, which can cover nearly 100 per cent of fees, plus scholarships in drama, music, art, and sport (which can be combined) worth up to 50 per cent of fees. Help also available for current parents in financial straits. Sibling discount offered.

The last word

Thriving girls’ day school in leafy Sevenoaks, which produces confident young women with an adventurous spirit and strong academic results without the pressure of some neighbouring schools. More supportive than competitive, there’s a real sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ and lessons for life that reach well beyond the classroom.

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

Walthamstow Hall offers a continuum of provision to meet a diversity of pupils’ needs. Additional support can be provided for individual pupils and small groups of pupils who are catching up on their basic literacy, numeracy and communication skills. Computers are available to support learning in many classrooms in addition to ICT, eg music, and in centrally located areas of the school. Provision or action that is additional to or different from that available to all will be recorded by the specialist support tutor in consultation with the special and individual needs co-ordinator, pupil, parents, carers and teachers as necessary.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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

Who came from where

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