South Hampstead High School

Junior School: 5 Netherhall Gardens, London NW3 5RN
Senior School: 3 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SS

Profile: As one of the Girls’ Day School Trust’s oldest schools, South Hampstead High School has been “opening doors, hearts and minds since 1876“. An all-through girls’ school from ages 4 – 18, it is one of the most sought after independent school options for girls in the area and beyond.

Consistently ranked among the top 20 secondary schools in London based on its academic results, the school’s academic reputation has always been outstanding. Typically, around 20% of its leavers receive Oxbridge offers, bucking the trend of falling offers that many other independent schools struggle with. Most secure places at other top destinations, both in the UK and abroad.

However, the school’s aim is very much to prepare its students for the world that awaits them once they leave school. Academic success comes as a by-product, but the emphasis during the school day is on building up curiosity, innovation, teamwork, debating, awareness of global issues and how to make a positive impact in the community and beyond. The curriculum and teaching approach is therefore creative, varied and engaging. The school’s latest inspection report describes a “pervasive culture of joyful scholarship.”

From the time they start in the Junior School, girls are encouraged to ask questions, find answers, work in teams, explore their interests and try different ways of solving problems. Debating is encouraged from an early age and communication and leadership skills are built up gradually. Junior School pupils benefit from access to the Senior School’s state-of-the-art facilities, whilst initiatives such as whole school walks and clubs led by older pupils provide a friendly, community feel.

The extracurricular offering is vast. This includes music, drama, art and a wide variety of sports, not to mention the excellent and spacious playground facilities that enable the girls to be active and let off steam during break time. The aim is for every girl to have the chance to find something they enjoy and pursue, whether it’s dance or yoga, football or netball, cricket or running. Last year, the U11 football squad were champions of the first GDST national football tournament. Music and performance are equally celebrated at the Junior School. All girls are introduced to a string instrument in Year 1, the recorder in Year 2, and a brass instrument in Year 3 – the vast majority then continue with individual tuition as they progress through the school. The Junior School’s Chamber Choir has been crowned the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) Choir of the Year.

Head of the Junior School, Ms Caroline Spencer, emphasises that a mere “extracurricular” offering is not enough to ensure breadth and inspiration for all: since extracurricular clubs might lead to self-selection, a big emphasis at the school is to integrate as many extracurricular activities into the school day and the curriculum for all to ensure all girls benefit from breadth and variety. For example, an optional debating club might normally attract those students who already enjoy public speaking and are particularly confident. By integrating debating into the curriculum, the school ensures all girls learn to argue their case, practise public speaking and healthy debate and as a result are prepared for successful careers.

All Junior School pupils enjoy outdoor learning sessions on Hampstead Heath, learning about teamwork and collaboration. Regular open homework tasks encourage pupils to experiment, take risks and respond in creative ways, helping to guard against the perils of perfectionism.

Head of South Hampstead High School, Mrs Anna Paul, joined in September 2023, following eight years as Senior Deputy Head at Godolphin & Latymer, responsible for overseeing pastoral care. Mrs Paul has a degree in English Literature from Durham University and a Postgraduate Certificate of Professional Study from the University of Cambridge. She has strong local connections, previously working at The John Lyon School and North London Collegiate School and living close to South Hampstead with her young family – both her daughters now attend South Hampstead High School, which gives her an excellent parent perspective as well. She is passionate about preparing the girls for the future, empowering them to be a force for good in the community and beyond. In the words of the school: “We understand how to educate girls, setting the feminist agenda and guiding well-rounded, well-grounded individuals to be the female leaders of the future.”

As an all-through school, South Hampstead High School is committed to helping all girls accepted to thrive. Girls from the Junior School enjoy automatic entry to the Senior School, so any girl admitted is very much expected to stay at the school until 18.

The school offers bursaries and scholarships at 11+ and 16+. Last year, the school welcomed eight girls from Ukraine who are now attending the school. Over the last few years, the school has achieved its target of 1 in 10 bursary places for every intake of Year 7 pupils.

Admissions: One form of 24 girls is admitted via assessment at 4+. A further form is added at 7+. Girls in the Junior School automatically move up to the Senior School, removing the pressure of the 11+. The school takes great care to select girls most likely to thrive at the school long-term. Curiosity, initiative and perseverance are highly valued and are as important as existing skills.

At 4+, girls enter the school from a wide variety of nurseries. While word on the street might be that some nurseries send more than others, Ms Spencer reassures parents that this is simply a reflection of applicant numbers. Due to the limited intake at 4+, the school inevitably has to turn down many very able girls and more than welcomes them to reapply at 7+ and/or 11+.

The main intake into the Senior School is at 11+ and South Hampstead is part of the London 11+ Consortium. Following the test, successful candidates are invited for interviews to be held at the school in mid-January.

Results and destinations: From the Junior School, almost all girls move up to the Senior School. Occasionally, one or two girls might move to a grammar or boarding school, but this is rare. At 16+, a small number move to co-educational Sixth Forms but again, numbers are small, and the overwhelming majority of girls stay until 18. University destinations have consistently been strong. Typically, around 20% receive offers for Oxbridge and around 10% go on to medical school each year, while increasing numbers are moving stateside to attend Ivy League universities. The University of Edinburgh, University of Bristol, UCL and University of Durham are among other common destinations.

Further resources: South Hampstead High School Leavers’ Destinations

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