Lady Eleanor Holles School (LEH) is a day school for girls in Hampton, London with outstanding academic results and a reputation for national sporting achievements.
LEH consists of a small junior school and a larger senior school, which operate from different buildings on the same 24-acre site. It enrols 980 girls aged seven to 18 years. While LEH is a day school, it runs an optional extended day from 7.30am through to 6pm (for tea and prep) that certainly appeals to working parents.
One of the oldest girls' schools in the UK, LEH has a 300-year history of educating girls. As a strong advocate for single-sex education, the school focuses on girls’ wellbeing and can tailor its timetable, lessons and extra-curricular activities to suit girls' learning styles and interests. At a time when we are seeing more UK independent single sex schools move to co-ed education, LEH shows no sign of following suit. Instead, it believes it can offer the best of both worlds through its co-operation with neighbouring Hampton School, an independent school for boys.
There are many links between the two single-sex schools, offering opportunities to socialise and work together. There are regular collaborations in musicals and other drama productions, language exchanges, CCF and careers events. There’s also a shared bus service, which is much appreciated by parents with children at both schools.
As the school says, it “values the integrity of single-sex education for girls and boys with all the resulting advantages for specialisation and focus on learning styles, emotional, psychological and pastoral education” while “seeking and enhancing all areas of mutual co-operation and joint activity to the benefit of both school”.
LEH is one of the UK’s top schools for GCSE and A Level results. It wants to be known for more than academic success, though. And its investment in facilities for sport and the arts reflects the school’s belief in the contribution these can both make to a well-rounded education. LEH’s motto ‘Hope Favours the Bold’ sums up the core purpose of the school – to raise courageous girls who are prepared to take risks and learn from failure.
Headmistress Heather Hanbury previously worked at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith, and Wimbledon High School. In 2022, Mrs Hanbury was named as President of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and is a firm believer in the “transformative power of single-sex education”. Commenting on single-sex education, Ms Hanbury said:
“It can be life changing for girls, who have every right to realise their own talents and boldly play to their own strengths: to become champions in their own lives. The world needs girls who have the confidence and the courage to pursue their aspirations and ambitions. Collectively, the female voice and female action can create a more equitable world for everyone.”
In the school’s most recent ISI inspection in 2022, inspectors found the school to be ‘excellent’ for each of the assessment areas outlined in the report – across both the Junior and Senior schools.
Teaching at LEH follows an enriched National Curriculum for England, and students benefit from early specialist teaching, cross-curricular learning, and a focus on study skills. As noted by ISI inspectors, students at LEH have a “thirst for knowledge” and are very well supported by teachers with “strong subject knowledge”.
In the Junior school, students have an early introduction to ICT skills, which gives them an excellent foundation for using technology in the Senior years, and specialist teachers for science, computing, French, Spanish, PE, mindfulness and music. There are dedicated junior facilities including a science laboratory, play area, art and design technology rooms, library, reading room, computing lab and music rooms – and a giant Teepee. It’s a combination of challenging and fun.
In the Senior school, students continue to follow a broad curriculum that includes traditional subjects such as English, maths, humanities, science, arts, and PE. Language choice is excellent (Mandarin, Latin, French, German, Spanish and Ancient Greek), and specialist teaching for computing and design technologies, as well as creative subjects such as art, music and drama.
Students typically study 10 subjects at GCSE and take three A Levels and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in the Sixth Form. There’s a wide choice of traditional subjects at both GCSE and A Level.
Students at LEH are encouraged to become confident, independent learners, which prepares them well for the move to university. This is not a school where your child will be spoon-fed the answers – with its ‘no hands up policy’, girls are encouraged to respond to questions “even when they do not know the answer and are prepared to take risks in their learning”.
The majority of students are considered ‘gifted’ by national standards so there’s no ‘Gifted and Talented’ programme; instead, all students should expect to be challenged and stretched within the classroom. And, by using comment only marking, LEH teachers encourage girls to truly understand the subject rather than simply aim for a higher grade.
Like many single-sex schools, LEH is focused on closing the gender gap in math and science fields, and it puts subjects such as technology, biology, computing science and product design front and centre. The school is investing in STEM education, and recently opened a new computing suite and product design suite, and it runs several competitions to celebrate the capabilities of females within STEM. It’s encouraging to see more girls taking these subjects through to A Level; the number of girls choosing physics at A Level is around 20%, more than double the national average.
The school’s motto, ‘Hope favours the bold’, extends beyond the academic and girls are given the specialist coaching, encouragement and facilities to discover their talents and passions in many sporting and artistic activities. There are widespread achievements in sport, external arts exams, and scholarships.
In sport, the school has both national and regional success in lacrosse, rowing and netball. PE lessons focus on swimming, netball, rounders, gymnastics, tennis and athletics, as well as classes in cricket, football, fencing, yoga, Pilates and climbing. The school has the facilities on campus for such a wide variety of sports and shares a boat house at Sunbury with Hampton School too.
Performances are a regular part of school life. There are instrumental lessons in piano, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, French Horn, harp, guitar, singing and percussion; a wide choice of ensembles, choirs, jazz bands, chamber music and rock bands; and weekly drama lessons through to GCSE level.
The school offers an impressive choice of extra-curricular options across a wide range of creative, sporting and academic activities – astronomy, drone club and sustainable cookery are some of the more unusual options.
Without being constrained by gender stereotypes, girls have the freedom to enjoy activities such as engineering and robotics which are typically dominated by boys. In the Sixth Form there’s also the option of joining a joint club with boys from Hampton School, such as choir or musical theatre.
The school's reputation for academic excellence is delivered year in, year out. The school is academically selective though, and there’s a competitive entrance exam, so these results are less surprising because of its intake.
2022 A Level results: In the cohort of 85 students, 60% achieved A* grades, 88% A*-A and 95% A*-B which is an outstanding set of results. There are the highest number of girls taking the sciences, maths, economics and English literature, as well as psychology.
2022 GCSE results: In the cohort of 110 students, 86% achieved 9-8, 95% 9-7 ad 100% 9-4 which is also an outstanding set of results.
Up to 20% of each year group may proceed to university at Oxford or Cambridge; in 2021, 12 students went to Oxbridge. The majority go on to universities which belong to the prestigious Russell Group, including Bristol, Warwick, the London School of Economics, University College London, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Manchester.
The school has a 24-acre campus with four lacrosse pitches, eight outdoor netball courts, six grass tennis courts and a croquet lawn, as well as a sports hall, activity studio and indoor swimming pool. There’s also an arts centre including a 240-seat theatre, Music and Art Departments and Drama Suite, and a music Department with 16 practice rooms and a dedicated recording studio.
The Junior School has its own standalone building, Burlington House, with specialist rooms for Computing, Art, DT, Science and Music and a play area, trim trail and dining room. Students also have the full use the main school’s sport and arts facilities, which is a huge advantage of belonging to a much larger, all-through school like this.
LEH attracts students from professional families across west London.
Scholarships are offered in the senior school and sixth form for academics, music, art, sport drama and STEM.
The school has a large bursary scheme offering around £1m of financial support a year to students; around 8% of girls receive some form of financial support.
Good for: This is likely to be on the list for many academically ambitious parents when choosing an all-girls or London school. While this is a very academic school, with a focus on achieving the best possible results, there is a close attention to student wellbeing and the promise of a well-rounded education that recognises the importance of sports and the arts.
There are many benefits of a single sex school, which may offer the best learning environment for your daughter – girls can feel they have more encouragement and confidence to speak out in class, they may be more study ‘traditionally male’ subjects.
Not for: The school will not suit every student; it is very much for the more academically oriented. Also, while the school does have links with the all-boys Hampton School, it is focused on delivering a single-sex education which may rule this out as an option for families with a preference for a fully-rounded co-education.
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